2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What is the present cost in each State -
State, and the total cost per 1,000 stamps resulting ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
This matter is now under consideration, and a definite reply cannot be given at present, but the decision must depend to a great extent upon the price, and even more upon the question of a proper and adequate control by the Commonwealth.
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
In view of the negotiations now said to be proceeding for the purpose of establishing a system of wireless telegraphy with places in and beyond the Commonwealth, has he taken into consideration the advisableness of providing stations for the transmission of wireless messagesto and fro between Thursday Island and any place or places in New Guinea’?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The position with respect to Thursday Island and New Guinea will be taken into consideration in connexion with any proposal for wireless telegraphy in (he Commonwealth.
asked the Postmaster-
General, upon notice -
Whether he will makeinquiries and see if light metal post-cards with rounded corners may pass through the post?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
It is not considered desirable that any articles printed on metal with thin, sharp, edges should be accepted for transmission by post unless properly enclosed and adequately protected, and they should not, therefore, be accepted as postcards, which must necessarily be sent unenclosed.
Debate resumed from 10th November (vide page 4951), on motion by Mr. Deakin -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I am not particularly pleased with this measure, which the Government have introduced to regulate the admission into this country of immigrants under contract to perform manual labour. I was in agreement with them in regard to their proposal for the amendment of the Immigration Restriction Act which we had before us yesterday, but there is nothing in this Bill which causes me to view it with favour, or warrants the Government in asking us to occupy time in its consideration. In my opinion, it is worse than the legislation which it has been introduced to amend, and I hope that the House will not stultify itself by passing it in its present form.
– Does the honorable member oppose the Bill because it will not allow men to come in here under contract ?
– I shall make my meaning very clear before I have finished my speech.
– That was the tenor of the remarks of the honorable member which have been made public.
– Not at all. It is well known that we, on this side, have been asking for the amendment of the Immigration Restriction Act, and, some time ago, I moved the adjournment of the House to call attention to the injustices and absurdities which are constantly being created by its administration. But now that the Government have brought in a Bill to amend its contract labour provisions, I cannot view the measure with any satisfaction. We have been asking for the amendment of the Act, and saying That we would not be happy until we got it, but now that we have got it we are not happy. I think that the Government would do well in not wasting time trying topass the Bill in this way. It is more restrictive than the present Act. and does not remove the stigma which our legislationplaces on our own kith and kin, and has wrought such havoc to our reputation and credit abroad. The Bill will deceive no one, but it will aggravate existing troubles. In my opinion, it should be called a Bill to make the immigration of persons under contract as difficult as possible. It hedges round their introduction with greater restrictions than already exist, and impos.es conditions which it will be almost impossible to comply with. What I desired was a bond fide and earnest attempt to remove the restrictions which are now causing so much trouble, and to proclaim to the Empire that all people of our race may come here without let or hindrance, so long as they comply with legitimate and proper conditions,. The measure is a hypocritical one, and in no way ameliorates present conditions. The reason for this is that the Prime Minister doe’s net admit in his heart the necessity for amending the present law. He has declared over and over again that there is nothing in our present legislation but what should be there, and that the troubles which have occurred have been due to the wrong impressions which have gone abroad. If that be his opinion, he should try rather to remove the wrong impressions than to alter the existing law.
– Did the Prime Minister ever do anything to suit the honorable member?
– Yesterday morning I was applauding the Government for having introduced the Immigration Restriction Amendment Bill.
– The honorable member was speaking against them las.t night.
– I am prepared to follow the Prime Minister in his better moods, but I am not willing to follow the honorable and learned1* member for Northern Melbourne. When he has got hold of the Government, I look askance at their proposals, and that is what happened last night. The honorable and learned1 member induced the Government to amend the Bill in such a way as, in my judgment, makes if practically valueless.
– Is it a good’ thing to amend the law so as to allow more people to come here under contract?
– If I did not think so. I should not speak as I do.
– It is sad to see the honorable member fighting like this for the capitalists.
– I am fighting, not for the capitalists, but for all Australians, whether capitalists or labourers.
Why should I have any special concern about capital? What has capital done for me ?
– I am surprised at the honorable member fighting for it, seeing that it has done so little for him.
– I do not recollect that I am indebted to capital for anything that I have gained’ since coming to Australia.
– The honorable member for Maranoa was thinking of the anticipations which the honorable gentleman has.
– What does the honorable member mean?
– Of benefits to come !
– That is not a fair remark.
– If, as the honorable member for Gwydir is constantly telling me, I am taking an unpopular course, if I am going right away from the great bulk of the people outside, what are the anticipations to which he refers? I know of none, and certainly I do not recognise the slightest obligation to capital in what I am doing. I believe that this question of immigration, and the intermixing of the people of various parts of the Empire, does not affect capital or labour as such. It affects the free rights of free men, irrespective of whether they represent capital or labour. I venture to say that those who will suffer most from this legislation are the working men, and not the capitalists. I am not concerned so much about the capitalist who can look after himself, as about the great bulk of the working men of Australia. I believe the course I am now taking is in the interest of the working man, in the interest of the plenitude of his employment, and in the interest of all those things which will make for the building up of a happy and contented people here. If I did not hold that belief, I should not be standing here and speaking as I am. We might very well credit each other with the best intentions, even where our opinions differ as to the method by which our object should be achieved. When the Prime Minister set out to deal with this legislation, he did so by showing very unmistakably that in his judgment it was not necessary that he was only taking this course for the purpose of easing down some unnecessary and baseless fears concerning the operations of the Immigration Restriction Act. In his speech on the second reading of this Bill, he said -
The problem is, why the working people of the mother country do not recognise that the law whichhas been so much attacked, is intended to benefit them when they come here, and operates in their interest?
If the honorable gentleman really believed that, he ought not to have introduced a measure ofthis kind.
– Why not? My argument was that the object of the Bill is to keep up the Australian standard, and that increases the temptation to the working people of the mother country to come to Australia.
– If the Act is one that should find a place on our statutebook, the honorable gentleman ought to maintain and defend it, and not make an obvious attempt to try to modify its provisions.
– We take these provisions away from the provisions relating to aliens.
– Am I to understand that the honorable gentleman does not mean that this is an amending measure ?
– Yes, certainly. It is a separate measure, and that is one great advantage.
– Is that the only advantage?
– No; it tries to make the intention of Parliament clear.
– There is intended to be no modification of the existing restrictions ?
– Oh, yes.
– I am glad to hear that, but I fancy that the honorable gentleman is not the man to modify those restrictions. He is not the man who I. think ought to have charge of this Bill, seeing that he has declared over and over again that our restrictive legislation is purely in the interest of the working men who come here, and ought, therefore, to be maintained in its integrity. Setting out with that belief and conviction, he may succeed in making an alteration without an. amendment. The great outstanding distinction of this measure is that it alters things, but does not mendthem. The restrictive provisions of the Act are being reenacted in this Bill ; very much more cumbersomely, I think, and with very much more red-tape. There is a juggling with words, it is true, but there is no substantial alteration of the restrictive parts of the Act. The honorable gentleman says that he is separating the provisions of this Bill from our general Immigration Restriction Act. It may be a separation, but I am afraid that it is not a purification of the provisions of the Act. They remain in all their restrictive force, and in all their deadly effect, as I think upon the reputation and credit of Australia. Why has this legislation been asked for? Obviously, because the Immigration Restriction Act, and its administration, has produced a bad impression abroad. It has stopped the healthy flow of free immigrants from various portions of our Empire, and the result to-day is that we are a stationary people, making hardly any progress, so far as the accumulation of numbers is concerned. It is a fact, I believe, applying to the history of nations perhaps more than to anything else, that there is no such thing as standing still. The moment that we, as a nation, begin to stand still, we commence to decline in every sense of the term. Progress is the law of life, not only with the nation, but with the individual. We must all subscribe to that law, and the moment we cease to forge ahead, we are on the downward grade, in every sense of the term. In Australia our population is stationary. For the last ten years we, as a people, have made no substantial progress.
– The honorable member can not blame the Prime Minister for that.
– I am not blaming the Prime Minister for that, but I am blaming some of our State legislation, and also our Immigration Restriction Act.
– New South Wales lost population while the honorable member was a Minister.
– That may have been due to the cordial and complete support of the honorable member. This is a very serious, subject to me, and it is not one about which to bandy words or chop logic. Australia. I repeat, is not going ahead. Immigrants are not coming here asthey were wont to do, and as they would do if the attraction were sufficiently important. Obviously, the introduction of this legislation is due to the bad impression which has stopped immigration, and interfered very seriously to the detriment of our financial relations, with our creditors abroad. What is the honorable member for Bland laughing at?
-I must smile at that.
– Then the honorable member, I take it, does not believe in the statements of the Agents-General?
– I do not.
– The AgentsGeneral are on the spot, and naturally they may be expected to know more than the honorable member, who is 13,000 miles distant.
– I take the Earl of Jersey, who has acted as Agent-General for New South Wales for a considerable time, to be as good an authority as any of the Agents-General.
– I do not wish to say one word to the detriment of the Earl of Jersey. All I wish to say in that connexion is that he is our guest.
– Does the honorable member mean to imply that because the Earl of Jersey is our guest, he would say that which otherwise he would not express.
– Not at all. The Earl of Jersey has always been a great friend to Australia, and no one appreciates that fact more than I do, but if he had any adverse criticism to make on Australia I do not think he would choose the time when he was her guest to express his sentiments.
– He has gone out of his way to say that the suggestion that our laws are hindering our financial operations is absolutely incorrect.
– The honorable member is now raising an issue between the Agents-General and the Earl of Jersey.
– The honorable member raised an issue between the AgentsGeneral and myself, and I transferred it to somebody else.
– On the contrary, it was the honorable member who wished to raise an issue between the Earl of Jersey and myself. The Agents-General who have every opportunity to form an intelligent opinion on the spot, declare that our legislation is doing a very serious injury to our relations abroad, and their efforts to assistus at home.
– And now, when we are seeking to amend the Act, the honorable member still objects.
-Yes, I object to this Bill because I decline to believe that is an amendment of the Act.
– What else is it?
– If the honorable member had been listening, he would have heard’ me declare that the Bill proposes a mere alteration, and not an amendment of the Act. The Prime Minister is not prepared to admit that it is very much of an amendment. He goes all round the compass before he can be got to admit that it contains a point of amendment. He says that it is a separate Bill, and that in that respect it is an amendment.
– That is a great thing.
– I do not think it is.
– We get rid of all the pains and penalties which are imposed upon alien immigrants.
– I donot think that the separation of certain provisions from the general Act will affect the question of contract immigrants one iota.
– Not the main issue.
– That is the point. Yesterday we dealt with alien immigrants, and now we are dealing with contract immigrants.
– Who may be aliens or not.
– We have already dealt with contract immigrants who are aliens, and we are now dealing with contract immigrants who are on the same plane of civilization as ourselves, especially those who belong to the same Empire, and subscribe to the same standard of civilization as we do. If this measure had reference to all and sundry, I should not be so very much concerned, but I am concerned when our own Empire is vitally and detrimentally affected by our legislation. I think it will be admitted very readily that the question of attracting population to Australia is a very serious one. No one has-been more impressed with the necessity for attracting population than has the Prime Minister. In every speech which he makes he points out that the great necessity of Australia is population. No one has subscribed to this doctrine more freely than have the honorable member for Bland and the honorable and learned member for West Sydney. They have declared that the two great need’s of Australia are population and’ a belter defence, and the Prime Minister is fond of declaring that the only effective means of providing for our defence is by filling the Continent with a happy and contented white population.
– We do not want slaves here.
– No one wants them. We all want to keep slavery as far away as possible. We wish to people Australia with free white men; but, strange to say, whenever we make an effort in that direction obstacles are placed in our way. The Prime Minister went over to Sydney the other day, and delivered a most eloquent address at Dr. Arthur’s immigration meeting. He delivered a speech that sparkled and scintillated - in every way a most excellent speech from the rhetorical point of view. I read it with a great deal of pleasure, but afterwards I asked myself what it all meant, so far as practical results were concerned. The honorable member for Bland’ also addressed1 that meeting, and after I had read his speech I asked myself the same question. The other day General Booth made an, offer, and at first the Prime Minister seemed to think it was an excellent one.
– I think so still.
– Does the honorable member think that that has anything to do with contract labour?
– Yes. Because my broad point is that the Bill in its present form would prevent people from coming to Australia. The honorable member for Bland at first thought General Booth’s offer was a very good one, but afterwards ho cooled on it, and eventually froze it out. Now he says that the only way in which we can increase our population and promote settlement is by imposing a good stiff land tax.’ That was his principal theme at Dr. Arthur’s meeting.
– Since I called the honorable member’s .attention to this question just now. I have glanced through the Bill we are discussing, and I find no reference in it to any other matter except the admission of immigrants under contract to perform manual labour. Therefore, I could not allow the larger question of the desirability of general immigration to be discussed. I shall be obliged to confine the discussion to the question whether contract labour should be) introduced, and, if so, under what conditions.
– I think that I might be permitted to show how such a Bill as this would affect population as a whole.
-The honorable member would be in order in incidentally re ferring to that point, but I could not permit him to make it his main line of argument.
– When we examine the individual attitude of honorable members who advocate the increase of our population, all their talk at public meetings appears as so much idle chatter, so much moonshine. That was one of the reasons why I was not anxious to appear at Dr. Arthur’s meeting. I could see that no practical result would follow from such speeches as the Prime Minister delivered. The Prime Minister is in a position of supreme responsibility and power, and he should be able to do something of a practical character. We find, however, that all his oratory and rhetoric effervesces away, and nothing is done.
– We can do nothing worth speaking of without land.
– The Prime Minister needs to take only another step in order to range himself alongside the honorable member for Bland and the other members of the Labour Party. He needs only to say that he is in favour of a good stiff progressive land tax.
– Does the honorable member think it is extraordinary for the Prime Minister to say that we can do nothing without land?
– I say that the Prime Minister is doing nothing to give practical effect to his expressed views.
– What does the honorable member think he can do?
– If he can do nothing, he should stop talking and endeavouring to make the people believe that he can do something. If he cannot do anything, let him tell the public so, and leave the matter to the States Governments. I admit that he can do nothing except in conjunction with the States.
– I offered to find money to encourage immigration if the States, Parliaments would take steps to make land available for settlement.
– The Prime Minister offers to find money to bring people to Australia who have not a job to go to.
– If they have suitable land upon which they can settle without delay, thev have a job to go to.
– Are such conditions within reasonable prospect at the present time.
– Yes. Western Australia is giving a certain amount of land free.
– Then why does not the Prime Minister take action?
– My offer has been twice or thrice repeated, and I have had no general response from the States.
– Has the Prime Minister offered to bring immigrants out here at the cost of the Commonwealth Government if Western Australia will give them land for settlement?
– No. The honorable member knows well enough that we have no right to make an o’ffer of that kind to a particular State. My offer was made to all the States., and, as I say, they have not, as a whole, responded so far.
– Is there any possibility of anything being done in that direction ?
– In the meantime, I am pointing out the inconsistency of the Prime Minister in offering to assist to bring people here as free men who will not have a job to go to.
– They will come here for land upon which they can make their homes.
– But they must support themselves whilst they are getting the land, and bringing it under cultivation. The Prime Minister’s aim has been to bring farm labourers here - men who will not take up land for themselves.
– Farmers and farm labourers.
– If the honorable gentleman says now that Ave want men who will take up land for themselves, he has verv materially modified his original view.
– We want men of character and industry, with or without money.
– The Minister would assist men to come here if they had no job to go to. but if they happened to have a billet ready waiting for them, which would place them beyond the possibility of becoming paupers and dependent upon the State, he would put every obstacle in their way by means of the contract clauses.
– Not if the terms were fair.
– Would the honorable member bring men here under contract to take the place of our own ‘people?
– Not at all. That talk is not for this Parliament, but for the honorable member’s constituents.
I am endeavouring to convince honorable members of the necessity of amending the Bill or rejecting it ; and the honorable member and those associated with him are making irrelevant interjections, which they know in their hearts are not correct. In regard to the seriousness of the present situation as it affects our credit and reputation abroad, I prefer to pin my faith to the statements of the Agents-General. I cannot believe .that these gentlemen are endeavouring to injure the Commonwealth. If they are, thev should be recalled instantly. Do honorable members believe that the Agent- General for South Australia is saying what he does not believe to be correct? Is it to be credited that the Labour Government of Queensland would tolerate ‘an Agent-General who was doing his best to besmirch the reputation of Australia? Mr. James, who represents. Western Australia, is a good democrat, and I take it that the Labour Government who appointed him had the fullest confidence in him. I believe that the Agents-General are doing their very best for Australia as a whole. Is it suggested that Mr. Coghlan has any other object in view ? I believe him to have a sincere desire to help the workers of Australia. Yet he subscribes to that statement. I do not think that any Agent-General would have attached his name to that memorandum if he had not believed its contents. There was no obligation upon him to do so, and the honorable member for Gwydir ought to know Mr. Coghlan better than to suppose that he would subscribe Wis name to any memorandum in which he did not believe. All the Agents-General concur in the terms of that communication, and I say that nothing more scathing in the wa of criticism of our Federal legislation has ever been seen. Nothing that has been said in Australia has had a tithe of the force of the statement by the AgentsGeneral. In endeavouring to indicate the forces which mould public opinion, they say -
We should be neglecting our duty if we failed to give adequate weight to the far-reaching effect exercised by the language test, and the contract labour section of the Immigration Restriction Act.
– Does not the honorable member think that it is due to the fact that the two things have been mixed together, and as a result, have been misunderstood ?
– I do not see how that can be the case. The AgentsGeneral are paid high salaries to expose any misrepresentation concerning Australia. Yet they point out what has been the result of our legislation. They say -
These have proved veritable stumbling blocks to the work of the Agents-General, and have had a more prejudicial influence upon public opinion in every part of the Kingdom.
Nothing has more irritated public opinion than these two matters, to which we propose to revert in a separate despatch, dealing’ with the subject of immigration.
In connexion with this memorandum, we cannot refrain from expressing our conviction that, although a reasonable provision against the. importation of labour during a strike could be fully vindicated, the real aims of the Commonwealth will not be understood or sympathized -with, so long as constantly recurring incidents under the contract sections serve to remind people of the provision which grates upon every British susceptibility, by treating the British worker under contract as an industrial “ pariah “ in a British community.
In all his flights of eloquence, the right honorable member for East Sydney has never said anything so severe as that.
– Because he professes to be against contract labour.
– The honorable member must be dreaming.
– There was no division upon those clauses when they were considered in this House.
– There was no division upon them for the simple reason that nobody expected they would have the far-reaching effect which they have had.
– It is the old excuse, “We did not know it was loaded.”
– Did the honorable member know that it was loaded?
– I was not here at the time.
– If the honorable member had been here, doubtless all this difficulty would have been avoided. What Australia has lost by reason of his absence ! I repeat that nothing more denunciatory of our legislation has been heard from any honorable member upon this side of the House, or from what honorable members opposite have been pleased to designate the “ stinking fish party,” or from the “squealers,” as they were called yesterday by the exceedingly elegant member for Kalgoorlie. When our own officers, who are specially charged with safeguarding the reputation of Australia abroad, so roundly denounce our legisla tion, it is time for us to examine it with a view to ascertaining whether there is a sufficient justification for the aspersions which they have cast upon us. Then I should like to call attention to a letter which was recently sent by a representative of the organized workers in New South Wales to Great Britain - a letter in which he told the toilers of England that they were not to come here; that, if they did come they would find that things were very bad, and that it was difficult to get work at all.
– Is not that a fact?
– The statement is absolutely true.
– Are things as bad in Australia as that communication describes ?
– They are far worse than they ought to be.
– After all, it seems the honorable member belongs to what has been called the “ stinking fish “ party. It is members of his party who make these allegations which are published abroad to the injury of Australia.
– The only difference is that the statement to which the honorable member has just alluded is true, whereas the other statement is not.
– I suppose that the honorable member is able to answer the old question -“What is truth?” I am sure that he is, by the confident way in which he speaks. However, we are not in an ethical or theological class, but in a legislative chamber, and we have to decide the matters which are occurring in Australia day by day, and which are affecting, so profoundly, either for good or ill, our credit and reputation abroad. On behalf of the workers of one of the great States of the Union, the statement to which I refer was sent abroad. Its author declares that Australia is no place for the immigrant, and that if he comes here, he will be confronted with conditions which will not contribute either to his decency or comfort. Not a word in condemnation of that! statement has been uttered by the Prime Minister, who is specially charged with the duty of encouraging immigration. Neither have I heard anything from the leader of the Labour Party in regard to this question. He has become strangely dumb upon it recently. The policy of the Labour Party in this connexion is, in its very essence, a foolish one. From the point of view of the betterment of the workers, no more suicidal step has ever been taken than that’ of endeavouringto prevent immigrants who may come to Australia, from getting upon our lands. I hold that every individual who comes here with a little capital will provide work for the artisans of the country, instead of taking it from them. That is the way to create more work in the community, not to provide less. I fear that sometimes we lose sight of the fact that all our secondary industries would not be worth much if it were not for our primary industries.
– How does the honorable member account for the fact that there has been no material improvement in our primary industries during recent years?
– I should be very glad to hear the reasons which the honorable member has to advance in that connexion. I do not know anybody who is more competent to express an opinion upon the primary industries of Australia than he is. He will not pretend for a moment, nor will any one else who has investigated the problem - that the welfare of the primary industries of Australia is dependent upon our secondary industries. To do so would be putting the cart before the horse with a vengeance, and no economist has ever advocated any such notion as that. The primary industries must be regarded as the basis of a country’s prosperity.
– Does the honorable member think that his remarks relate to contract labour ?
– Yes. My point is. that if we can attract the proper class of immigrants to Australia, our artisan population, who protest against the adoption of that policy, would be the first to benefit.
– I have already pointed out to the honorable member that while incidental reference to that aspect of the question is permissible, the Bill deals with nothing but contract labour and the conditions under which it shall be admitted to the Commonwealth. The whole of his remarks, therefore, in reference to a general immigration policy are out of order.
– My point is that if we can induce contract immigrants to come to Australia to engage in our primary industries, they will stimulate our secondary industries, and thus provide more work for the artisan class, who now oppose the encouragement of immigration. Just when immigration is beginning to turn towards our shores, we propose to create fresh obstacles by means of this Bill. Instead of enacting these cumbersome, irksome provisions, we ought to facilitate immigration in every possible way, ‘ and, as I say, this proposed legislation is singularly unfortunate, coming as it does just when there seems to be a turn in our favour. These colourless proposals of the Prime Minister contrast very strongly with the vivid oratory with which he introduces, defends, and explains them. The proposals represent the minimum of action and the maximum of pretension - the minimum of effort and the maximum of words. The Prime Minister is like a star shining in the oratorical firmament; but he becomes a regular midnight blighter when the proposals themselves are examined. According to the Bill, no contract immigrant may come here unless the terms of his contract have been examined and approved by the Minister.
– That is not quite correct ; a contract immigrant may come here.
– No contract immigrant may land unless the terms of his contract are approved by the Minister.
– He may not land unless he is willing to run the risk of the penalty provided in later clauses.
– That is so. The purpose of the provision is to prevent the contract immigrant from landing unless the terms of his contract have been approved by the Minister.
– That may make it more advantageous for the immigrant.
– Before a contract immigrant may land, a contract has to be filed in the office of the Minister; that is to say, a contract, which is made 13,000 miles away, must be filed with the Minister, and, if required, verified on oath.
– What has been done in the few cases which have arisenhas been to submit the contract in Australia before sending it to the intending immigrant.
– But what about the case of an Australian capitalist who is: in London and engaging labour there? In that case the contract would have to be sent out.
– Unless, of course, the employer chooses to run the risk.
– Under the circumstances I have indicated, the contract would not reach the immigrant in less than four months.
– An employer knows the terms which must be fulfilled, and he could
– These are conditions which have to be fulfilled in no other part of the Empire. The Bill further provides that a contract must contain copies of these clauses of the Bill ; in other words, an immigrant has to come here with a ticket-of-leave which has to be indorsed by the Minister. That is the plain English of the matter, wrap it up in whatever language we like. Again, it is provided that the Minister must - not may - decline to let an immigrant land unless satisfied that workers of at least equal skill and ability cannot be obtained in Australia. How is the Minister to know where workers of equal skill and ability are to be found in Australia. The Minister in this matter sets himself an impossible task. And why confine the conditions to equal skill and ability? Some of the most skilful and able workers in Australia may be utterly obnoxious to an employer. Is the Minister to be placed in a position to force an employer to engage a man who may laugh in his face, and with whom, it may be, he has had quarrels time and again.
– That is rather a good argument for a man who was once a trade union official !
– The honorable member altogether mistakes my point. Does the honorable member for Yarra not know men who would not work for a certain employer? And does he not know employers who, apart altogether from trade union considerations, would not permit certain men to work for them?
– I must admit that I never came across such cases.
– Then the honorable member must be very simple.
– Nevertheless, I have had some experience.
– I should imagine that the honorable member for Yarra would be anxious not to make an employer and a workman come together when they mutuallyrepel each other.
– Hear, hear! I should
– That is all my contention. I am not talking of the re lations which result from victimizing men who have taken part in quarrels about wages, conditions, and so forth.
– Does the honorable member not know that 90 per cent. of the men whom employers will not employ are men who have been victimized on account of industrial troubles?
– I know that in New South Wales, at any rate, that sort of thing is supposed to have been stopped by legislation.
– It has not been stopped in Victoria.
– We ought to bear these facts in mind when dealing with fresh’ legislation of this kind. A man may have ability in abundance, and yet have defects of character which would make it difficult, and, indeed, unfair, to compel an employer to engage him. Is an employer under the circumstances not to be permitted to go further afield? There is no question as to the rates of wages, and I have no quarrel with the provisions of the Bill in this connexion. I do not stand here to advocatethe admission under contract of men who would vitiate our social and industrial standards. I shall support the clauses relating to the wages rate as keenly as any member of the Labour Party.
– I shall give the honorable member an opportunity on this Bill.
– I do think, however, that it is very absurdto say that the Minister shall not permit a contract immigrant to land, until satisfied that there is no worker of equal skill and ability in Australia. The whole question is whether an employer shall be compelled to engage a man who is obnoxious and repellant to him in every way. This Bill is worse than the last in the respect that the Minister previously had an option, which is now destroyed. The hands of the Minister are . tied completely, and the door is shut on the immigrant, and may be unlocked only under certain conditions by the action of the Minister. Even if the contract be perfectly good, and the immigrant happens to land before it has been lodged and indorsed, it becomes immediately void, the immigrant being finable in £5, and the employer in £20, while the latter has further to pay the immigrant the sum of £50.
These penalties attach even if it be subsequently proved that the contract is good, and it is approved by the Minister.
– That is a special invitation to the immigrant to afterwards leave the Commonwealth.
– Either that, or the immigrant remains here supported by the£50, until he can find a reasonable job. Then, so far as I can see, there is nothing to prevent a contract immigrant from subsequently entering into a similar contract immediately after the first contract may have been declared void.
– Would the honorable member like to present any obstacles to that course?
– Would the honorable member?
– No; I say that an immigrant ought to be allowed to hire with an indentor, if he pleases after he arrives.
– That is what I say. Where is the difference between hiring a man in Sydney and hiring a man in London, if the terms of the contract be the same.
– There is a great deal of difference in that the immigrant then knows the conditions which prevail here.
– What I say is that instead of removing a stigma which it has been alleged inheres in our present law, we are re-enacting that law in a more objectionable form. The other day, when we were discussing the union label question, Canadian precedents were quoted over and over again. I suppose, however, that we should not like to follow the Canadian precedent in regard to immigration.
– What is the Canadian law in regard to contract labour?
– The Canadian law is as follows: -
From and after the passing of this Act it shall be unlawful for any person, company, partnership, or corporation, in any manner to prepay the transportation, or in any way to assist or encourage the importation or immigration of any alien or foreigner into Canada, under contract or agreement, parole or special, express or implied, made previous to the importation or immigration of such alien or foreigner, to perform labour or service of any kind in Canada.
The last section of the Canadian Act provides -
This Act shall apply only to such foreign countries as have enacted and retained in force, or as enact and retain in force, laws or ordinances applying to Canada of a character similar to ‘this Act.
It will be seen that there is reciprocity under the Canadian law even in regard to aliens. I am not suggesting, however, that Australia should go to the same extent as Canada in this connexion. We are prepared to go a long way ahead of Canada in regard to preserving our standards of living and our industrial relations. But what do we want more than provision in this Bill for certain penalties regarding certain matters. If honorable members please, let us make it penal to bring out men to break down a strike, or under deceptive agreements. Let us, make it penal to bring out men under a contract which in any respect fails to observe our social and industrial standards, and then let us open the door and let them come. Surely the honorable member for Hindmarsh would be able to “police” these matters, as they affect his trade.
– He might be very well left to do so. But, instead of resorting to this course, we seize upon every immigrant and put him through an examination which is more characteristic of Russia than a civilized country, and we turn him out with a passport, which he must present before he is able to secure entry to this part of the world. The system is absurd and un-British, and the sooner it can. be abolished the better. We can preserve our social standards without resorting to such an irritating practice. This Bill will stop all contract immigration, and will open the door, only in certain circumstances, at the will of the Minister. I am not prepared to leave the whole question of contract immigration to Australia to the whim or will of any Minister. Imagine leaving it to the Minister of Trade and Customs, with some of his particular labour friends at his back ! They would take care that no contract labourer came here, and with the provisions of this Bill confronting him no Minister would be unable to resist that pressure from behind.
– The honorable member should speak for himself. I should resist whatever I thought ought to be resisted.
– I trust that the honorable gentleman does not imagine that I am speaking in a personal or offensive sense. I hold that it ought not to be left to any Minister to open or shut the door to men coming, here under a fair and legitimate contract, but that is what will be clone by ‘ this Bill. Under the original :Act, the Minister has an option ; but that option is not to be taken from him. This’ Bill will continue to shut the door in the face of a. Britisher, and that door is to be opened only by the Minister. An innocent unoffending farm labourer may come to Australia from Great Britain, and after breaking up his home, after burning his boats behind him, and travelling 13,000 miles, he may be denied a landing, or, if he lands, ne will be liable to penalties which will. l>e ruinous to him, and subjected to conditions that will brand him as a breaker of our laws. With that full knowledge, are these men likely to come here, when they may turn towards Canada and other countries where they will be received with open arms, and no question of any kind be put to them? Thev will prefer the country which offers a larger liberty, which is nearer their home, where there is land for them to settle on, and where they know a hearty welcome will be given them by the Government. Our knowledge of human nature ought to teach us that instead of making our conditions more irksome, we ought to make them as little oppressive as possible, with a view to attracting people to our shores ; that instead of having all these restrictive red-tape provisions, we ought to provide freedom of entry in the observance of an honorable contract. There should be prohibition only in the case of men who come here to take the place of strikers or under deceptive cr sinister agreements. That prohibition mav he secured bv means of penalties, and not bv this system of espionage, bv following up a man’s movements as though he were coming here as a spy. This Bill will reenact the reign of the passport
– It is the old ticket - of -leave again.
– That is so. No wonder the Agents-General, say, as they do in their memorandum, that these proposals still grate on every British susceptibility. We are talking just now about an Empire Conference. The representatives of the Colonies are to meet in London to endeavour to bring the race closer together, to weld it into a united whole, to make it more powerful, and to make the component parts of the Empire more accessible and free to each other. All this is on the lip, and yet we have this Bill. We must either remove these unnecessary and irritating barriers or else stand branded when our re presentatives attend the Colonial Conference, as unsocial units of an Empire, every other part of which is permeated with the spirit of freedom of ingress and egress, with the spirit) of freedom to wOrk out our own social ideas in the best way known to us. We are talking about reciprocity. When we go to England, do the authorities ask us questions? When we go there, do they forbid us to land until we have been examined by the Prime Minister of Great “Britain? Do they forbid us to enter into a contract, except it has been first submitted to the scrutiny of a Minister?
– There are 12,000,000 people under the poverty line, because they have not taken these precautions.
– They ask us no questions; they protect us; they facilitate our movements in every way. They go with us to every foreign country protecting us and taking care that we are subjected only to such regulations as apply to the people living there. All this the Empire does for us. In return we shut the door in her face by means of irritating enactments, which can do no good to Australia, and will not help one whit to preserve our social standards. All that we desire can be done without these irritating provisions, which must destroy our reputation abroad for sanity and moderation, and loyalty to the great Empire of which we form a part.
– I do not agree with’ all the generalities in which the honorable member for Parramatta has indulged; but, at the same time, I am exceedingly sorry that the Government to whom I have agreed to give a general support should have introduced a Bill interfering with the Immigration Restriction Act. In introducing this Bill, the Prime Minister said that its object was to remove certain misapprehensions existing in England, and other -parts of the world, in regard to the contract clauses. The method by which he proposes to remove this misapprehension is that of striking out paragraph g of section 3 of the principal Act, which prohibits the immigration of -
Any persons under a contract or agreement to perform manual labour within the Commonwealth : Provided that this paragraph shall not apply to workmen exempted by the Minister for special skill required in Australia, or to persons under contract or agreement to serve as part of the crew of a vessel engaged in the coasting trade in Australian waters, if the rates of wages specified therein are not lower than the rates ruling in the Commonwealth.
I propose to show that, as the result of the passing of this Bill, the protection given under this paragraph to Australian seamen is to be abolished. The honorable member for Parramatta says that he is prepared to see that the wages of Australian workmen are not interfered with, and I take his remark to apply also to the wages of Australian seamen. At the present time, the paragraph to which I have referred has not been put into operation because of an opinion given by the Crown Law officers, and supported by the’ late Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton. I shall deal fully and clearly, I hope, with the circumstances relating to the introduction of that paragraph in the original Act. I find that when the measure was under consideration, the honorable member for Bland moved -
That the following new sub-clause be inserted as sub-clause g : -
Any persons under a contract or agreement to perform manual labour within the Commonwealth.
The Government of the day was, apparently, in accord with the amendment, save that the present Prime Minister, who was Attorney-General in that Administration, suggested the addition of the following proviso : -
Provided that this paragraph shall not apply to workmen exempted by the Minister for special skill required in the Commonwealth.
That proposal also met with the approval of the House ; but Sir Malcolm McEacharn was not satisfied that the paragraph,,, as it stood, would afford protection to the shipowners here, who were paying a much higher rate of wage than was received by crews on oversea vessels.
– I think that this question is of sufficient importance to warrant the presence of a quorum. (Quorum formed.)
- Sir Malcolm McEacharn therefore moved that the amendment be further amended by the following proviso: -
Provided that this paragraph shall not apply to workmen exempted by the Minister for special skill required in Australia, or to persons “under contract to serve as part of the crew of a vessel engaged in the coasting trade in Australian waters if the rates of wages specified therein are not lower than the rates ruling in the Commonwealth.
He gave certain reasons for moving this amendment.
Vessels come out here at times with their crews engaged at lower rates of wages3 anu compete on this coast with vessels on which the rates current in Australia are paid. . . . Then, again, the clause might prevent a ship-owner bringing out his vessel under contract at rates of wages existing in England. This amendment is to provide that as soon as vessels come into the coastal trade here the crews shall be paid the rates of wages ruling on the coast.
I hold that that is the law to-day, and in that opinion I am backed up by, at all’ events, one eminent legal gentleman. Unfortunately, the Crown Law Officers contend that it is not the law, and that the section is covered by paragraph lt. In any case, I am sure the Prime Minister must admit that it was the express intention of Parliament that the crews of oversea vessels engaging in our coastal trade should be paid the rate of wages ruling in the Commonwealth. I have quoted the remarks of an Australian ship-owner, who stated distinctly that the intention was to protect Australian ship-owners and seamen engaged in our coasting trade. That being so, the Government failed in their duty when they did not see that the section would carry the intention of Parliament into effect. I am sorry that instead of trying to assist Australian workers to secure more work than they are able to get at the present time, the Government should, on the contrary, be prepared to leave the door open and expose them to greater competition than that with which they have had to contend in the past. The Seamen’s Union of South Australia, after consulting legal authorities, carefully considering the matter, and studying the reports of the discussion which took place in this House, were thoroughly satisfied that it was the intention, of Parliament to protect the wages of -seamen employed on the Australian coast. Why were the words, which I have quoted, inserted in the Bill at all, if the intention were not to protect the wages of Australian seamen? The proposal to which I have referred would never have been brought forward by Sir Malcolm McEacharn unless he believed that it would be put into operation. I hope that the Government will, when this Bill goes into Committee, assist me to see that justice is done, not to our seamen only, but to our ship-owners. I am not asking very much, nor am I asking that we should go nearly so far as American legislation goes. Honorable members must be aware that under American legislation, not a single passenger, and not a pound of cargo, can be carried from one port to another of the
United States by oversea vessels. We have never proposed in this House that our legislation should go so far. But we do say that if oversea vessels, on which, in some instances, the wages paid are only half those ruling in the Commonwealth, come here, and engage in our coasting trade, it is only fair to Australian seamen and ship-owners that they should be afforded the measure of protection for which we ask. I am astonished that the Prime Minister has not looked further into the matter. The secretary of the South Australian Seamen’s Union, Senator Guthrie, had many communications with the Government of the day with regard to the matter. At page 969 of the ParliamentaryPapers for 1903, it will De found that the honorable senator wrote the following letter to Sir Edmund Barton: -
With reference to our recent interviews on the above subject, and Mr. Atlee Hunt’s letter of the 20th ult., wherein he states that you had given further thought to the question, and was still of opinion that paragraph k excludes the crews from the operations of the Act, I have also drawn the attention of the Customs authorities here to the matter prior to them granting a clearance to the Heathdene from this port. You will remember that that ship was one of the vessels complained of. Having loaded a cargo of coals at Newcastle, New South Wales, a part of which was discharged at Melbourne and the remainder at Port Adelaide - clearly “ a vessel engaged in the coasting” trade !n Australian ‘waters,” and the articles of agreement were drawn up and signed in England, and the rates of wages specified therein were about half those ruling in the Commonwealth - no action was taken by the authorities, and a clearance was granted. So I am compelled to again approach you, for under section 14 it appears that if there is a contravention of the Act, only an officer of Customs or the police are empowered to take the legal proceedings necessary for the enforcement of the Act. I am still of opinion that the provisions of the Act have been, and are being, contravened, and with every respect I confidently submit that crews engaged to serve in vessels such as the Heathdene, coming from ports beyond the Commonwealth, and trading in Australian waters, are not excluded from the operations of the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 by paragraph k of section 3 for the following reasons : -
Paragraphs g and k are intended to be quite distinct in application. The former clearly includes the cases in question as “ prohibited immigrants.” The latter refers only to the master and crew “ landing “ during the stay of the vessel in any port of the Commonwealth.
Paragraph k does not exempt or even limit the effect of paragraph g with regard to the cases in question,, for the landing can only attach to a class not coming within the interpretation of vessels engaged in the coasting trade.
In addition to this “the stay- in any port” would certainly not refer to vessels so engaged.
This is paragraph k of the section referred to -
The master and crew of any other vessel landing during the stay of the vessel in any port of the Commonwealth ; provided that the master shall, upon being so required by any officer, and before being permitted to clear out from or leave the port, muster the crew in the presence of an officer; and if it is found that any person who, according to the vessel’s articles, was one of the crew when she arrived at the port, and who would in the opinion of the officer be a prohibited immigrant, but for the exceptions contained in this paragraph, is not present, then such person shall not be accepted by this paragraph, and until the contrary is proved shall be deemed to be a prohibited immigrant, and to have entered the Commonwealth contrary to this Act.
It should not require much legal knowledge to show that the natural interpretation of that paragraph is that we were generous enough to say that the captain and crew of a vessel should be permitted to land in Australia, even though they were not paying the rates of wages ruling in the Commonwealth. But the interpretation given by the Crown Law officers is that the paragraph means that the captain and crew of an oversea vessel can engage in the coasting trade of the Commonwealth without paying the rates of wages ruling in the Commonwealth. Senator Guthrie, in his letter to Sir Edmund Barton, further said: -
The debate on the Act in the House of Representatives [vide speeches of the Honorable Alfred Deakin, Sir Malcolm McEacharn, and P. McMahon Glynn) shows it was never intended that k should govern g in excluding crews such as above mentioned. If the contrary were the case, vessels coming from foreign parts (say China or Japan) carrying crews under agreement to serve at any wage, however low, would be at liberty to engage in the Australian coastal trade, excepting the proviso in paragraph k. This proviso itself is corroborative proof of my contention, the words “ clear out from or leave the port” being descriptive of a clearing or leaving for a port outside the Commonwealth, and not applying or intended to apply to a clearing or leaving for another Commonwealth port.
I might say that the decision given by the Crown Law officers is stated in a letter to Senator McGregor, written at the direction of the Prime Minister, by Mr. Atlee Hunt, in which he says -
I am directed by the Prime Minister to inform you that, in pursuance of a promise made to the deputation introduced by you on the 4th February, at which reference was made to such cases as that described in regard to the ship A. J. Hockin, the matter was submitted to the Attorney-General, whose opinion is that so long as the crew of an oversea vessel engaged in the coasting trade remain members of the crew of that ship, and are only ashore during its stay in ti port of the Commonwealth, they are excepted, by paragraph k of section 3 of the Immigration Restriction Act, and that while that exception exists they cannot be regarded as prohibited immigrants under paragraph g of the same section.
I now ask the Prime Minister to say whether he thinks that that paragraph was inserted in the Immigration Restriction Act for no purpose whatever?
– - -It was only inserted, as Sir Malcolm McEacharn explained, to meet the case of new vessels built in England, and which it was necessary to bring out to Australia with crews to engage in the Australian trade
– How, then, does the honorable and learned gentleman explain Sir Malcolm McEacharn’s statement that vessels come out here at times with their crews engaged at lower rates, of wages, and compete on this coast with vessels on which the rates current in Australia are paid, and that gentleman’s further statement that his amendment was intended to provide that as soon as vessels came into the coastal trade here, the crews should be paid the rates of wages ruling on the coast ?
– I am aware that Sir Malcolm McEacharn had other objects in view, but the only object which the House considered, so far as I know, is the one I have mentioned.
– That is to my mind a most remarkable statement, because I can find nothing throughout the discussion on the subject which would lead any one to believe that the intention was as. the Prime Minister has stated it.
– There was very little discussion. The clause was passed on that understanding.
– Because no discussion was necessary. °
– I ask the honorable member to consider the time which has been taken up since in considering that question by the Navigation Commission and elsewhere.
– I was going to say that the intention of Parliament was so obviously to do justice to Australian shipowners and seamen, that I could not see how it could require much discussion, and I certainly cannot understand how it could be met with opposition. I never could understand how the section could possibly be governed by paragraph k, which merely provides that the master and crew of a vessel may land at a port, if they desire to do so. It permits them merely to land, and they must then go back to their ship. They are not allowed to land to engage in work, and, if there is a prohibited immigrant amongst the crew, the paragraph provides that the crew must be mustered, and, if the master leaves a single prohibited immigrant behind when he clears out from the port, he is liable to a penalty under the Act. That should be perfectly clear to any one who reads paragraph k of section 3.. I propose to ask this House to say whether it is fair that Australian ship-owners should be obliged to pay double the rate of wages which is paid by oversea ship-owners - as it is shown in the correspondence to which I have referred that in some instances they have been - and whether we should give them no protection whatever.
– That is what the Navigation Commission are considering.
– We have here an opportunity to go ahead of the Navigation Commission. I propose to give the House an opportunity to do what is fair in the matter, and if, when we receive the report of the Navigation Commission, it is found to be in opposition to our views, we shall have a further opportunity to discuss it. I know that at the time the seamen were very anxious to get this measure of protection. We have heard the leader of the Opposition say that he has no desire to see unfair competition imposed upon the workers of Australia. The right honorable gentleman was not speaking of seamen at the time, but if he is willing to see one section of Australian workmen fairly paid, we may assume that he is equally willing to see every section of them fairly paid. I propose in Committee to move the insertion of a clause in this Bill which will have that effect. I think it would have been far better if the Government had devoted their attention to some measure which would have led to an increase of employment in the Commonwealth rather than to a measure which will increase the competition which. Australian workers ha.ve to meet at the present time. We have been told that the workers are safeguarded under clause 5, which provides that-
The Minister shall approve the terms of the contract only -
when a copy is filed with him, and, if he so requires, is verified by oath; and
if in his opinion- -
the contract is not made in contemplation of or with a view of affecting an industrial dispute.
I should like very much to know how the Minister is to know when labour is introduced under contract that it is being brought here in connexion with an industrial dispute.
– He should be an omniscient Minister.
– That is an omniscience which I should not approve of. I think Ministers are now given too much power to deal with matters which should be expressly provided for by Act of Parliament. Either we are in favour of contract labour, or we are not. If we are in favour of it we should say so dEs.tinctly in the Bill; if we are not, and I certainly am not, we should make that equally clear in the Bill and the matter should not’ be left to the discretion of the Minister. It i3 impossible that we should know whether contract labour is being brought fo Australia in connexion with an industrial dispute. Are the Government so innocent as to believe that an employer will wait until a dispute occurs before he introduces labour under contract, possibly, in order to reduce wages? Nothing could be more simple than for an employer to say to the Minister, I am employing fifty men, and I require a dozen more. I cannot find them in the Commonwealth, and I desire to bring them out and pay them the same wages as my men are getting at the present time. He will make the term as short as he can, and directly the time of high pressure is over, will dismiss all that he can do without. Unfortunately, there is no trade in Australia to-day in which there is not surplus labour. Occasionally, for a week or two. there may be full work in some particular trade, but, as a rule, there is a large number of unemployed in every branch of industry throughout the Commonwealth. These men, when dispensed with, will therefore be thrown into competition with the labourers who have such a hard struggle at present. I understand that the Bill is to provide that men shall not be imported under contracts stipulating for the payment of wages at less than the average rate paid to labourers. But what is a labourer’s wage? In South Australia scores of men receive only £.1. 25$., or 35s. a week - chaff-cutters, drivers of carts, laundry workers, and others. Are we going to bring people from the old world at the miserable rate of wages paid here?
– The honorable member’s arguments would apply to all immigration, so that the Prime Minister must be wrong in favouring immigration.
– I will show that it is not wrong to favour the immigration of certain persons. At the present time I am trying to prove that the Bill does not contain adequate safeguards. What is a woman’s wages ? I cannot find that there is any fixed rate. We know that in Adelaide women are making trousers for 6d. a pair, and, no doubt, their employers would be only too glad to import women from the east end of London to do the work for 5d. a pair. No doubt some people think, whan they go into large tailoring, establishments, and pay high prices for their clothes, that those employed in the making of their garments are well paid ; but I know, because some of my relatives are in the trade, that some of the most respectable tailors are getting their clothing made up in factories, paying only a few pence for the making of vests, and verylittle for the making qf coats and trousers. That is done, not only in South Australia, but throughout the other States. It is impossible for the Government to say what are the ruling rates of wages in the Commonwealth. Why should we permit immigrants to be introduced here under contract at all? I know, with regard to my own trade, that any number of compositors and printers would come here if they received the assurance that they could get work at the ruling rates of wages ; and the various trade secretaries will bear me out in that statement. I should be prepared to take the verbal assurance of some employers, but I would require a written assurance from others, because there are both good and bad. But it is absurd to say that labour will not come here except under contract. Where there is work, there will always be applicants for it.
– I have received letters from men in South Africa, stating ‘ their readiness to come here if there is work available for them.
– No doubt. The union secretaries in Adelaide are continually receiving inquiries from the old country as to the chances of men getting work if they will come out here. The Prime Minister told us that very little desire has been shown to take advantage of the contract labour provisions of the present Act. If that is so, why not prevent the introduction of men under contract? It is onlyemployers who wish to gain an advantage by importing men under contract, who would be affected by the operation of the law, since the importation of skilled labour is provided for. But when honorable members visited North Queensland, they were told everywhere, “ If you send away the kanaka, we shall want contract labour.”
– Is not that a proper place for such a demand to come from ?
– No, because there is plenty of labour available in the Commonwealth. Some time ago, as the honorable member’ for Moreton will bear me out, the Chillagoe Mining Company advertised for hands, and thousands of men more than there was work for flocked to the mine.
– The company was able to get labour at its own price.
– Yes, and paid 6s. a day for work which is harder and more disagreeable than the work required from labourers in the cane-fields, which.- in comparison, I should think ‘ would be healthy work. In a circular issued by the Cairns district cane-farmers, handed to us at Cairns, a demand was made for an amendment of the Immigration Restriction Act. in order that reliable labourers might be imported under contract for tropical agricultural work from Great Britain and the Continent of Europe. Then the canegrowers of Ayr told us that -
The simple fact of the matter is that the question of labour should cease to be regarded from a political stand-point, and be dealt with from an economic one. In any case, as the difficulty of obtaining suitable labour has been brought about by the hasty legislation of the Federal Parliament, it believes them to find the proper remedy, and in this connexion we desire to impress upon you the absolute need for the amendment of the Immigration Restriction Act so as to permit of reliable farm labour being introduced, under agreement, from Great Britain and the Continent of Europe. Such a course might materially aid in bringing into practical shape the ideal of a White Australia, and we therefore strongly urge the necessity of such an amendment of the Act upon you.
I think the Prime Minister will see that he was entirely wrong in believing that, in the future, there will be no influx of contract labour. In. spite of the assurance which will be given, it will be the simplest thing in the world for the cane-farmers to go to the Minister and say, “ We cannot get reliable labour.”
– Why should they not?
– They should not be allowed to go to the Minister if it can be proved that there is reliable labour available. Have I not just given the honorable gentleman proof that, in the case of the Chillagoe Company, there was plenty of reliable labour available?
– On the contrary, I am hearing from the planters that they do want labour.
– That is exactly my point - that,, no matter what proof one may submit to the Minister, he will say, “ That is not good enough. Let the employers get in contract labour.” I have shown unmistakably that when the Chillagoe Company advertised for men to work at 6s. a day, under much harder conditions than exist in the cane-fields, thousands of men offered their services. The canegrowers can get in Australia to-day as much reliable labour as they may require. The two extracts I have quoted1 might be multiplied, but I am aware that honorable members have been supplied with quite a number of pamphlets on this subject. Undoubtedly,, the contract provisions of the Act have been evaded. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie can tell the Prime Minister of one danger which will occur under his proposal to allow contract labour to enter the Commonwealth. At the present time Italian miners are being brought in, and if such evidence as I have produced in regard to ample labour being available for the Queensland cr.ne-growers will not be accepted by the Prime Minister, it will be an easy matter for the mine-owners in Western Australia to convince him that it is necessary -for them to have Italian labour to work their mines. Thev are already importing Italian labour. I believe that it is being done under contract, but it is difficult to prove that. When this Bill becomes law, there will be a great many more evasions than there are at the present time.
– The employers will be able to bring in labour under contract. At the present time, there is always the fear that the existence of a contract may be discovered, but in the future the employers will entertain no such fear, and, consequently, there will be more likelihood of the law being evaded.
– Will there not be less reason for evading the law then than there is nowT
– No. All laws are evaded, and if we open the door to allow any form of contract labour to enter, of course, the law will be evaded ten times more than it is.
– Suppose that we were to strike out of paragraph b the words, “ there is difficulty,” and insert the words “it is impossible for an employer to obtain certain labour in the Commonwealth.”
– That provision is contained in the Immigration Restriction Act, and, therefore, no alteration of paragraph b is required. If no artisan possessing special skill can be found in the Commonwealth, he can be imported at the present time.
– The Government of Western Australia imported twelve boilermakers from England without even advertising their requirements in the newspapers of the Eastern States.
– Exactly. What will be clone under this Bill when we find the Government of Western Australia importing twelve boilermakers tinder the present Act? I recollect that incident very well. It elicited expressions of dissatisfaction, not from the society interested, but from all societies in Australia, because they realized what it meant. It meant that twelve men,, who were not required in Australia on account of special skill, were imported to compete with others in the trade. I have pointed out that, although the American law is far more stringent than our law, there has been no outcry against its provisions. Let me indicate what has been done in that country in spite of its stringent law. The Age, of the 8th November, contained the following paragraph : -
The “stinking fish” party in Australian politics, who are always girding at Commonwealth immigration restriction legislation, will be interested in a Reuter’s telegram from New York, received in London on 27th September last. The telegram states that the Federal Prosecutor announces that “ eleven, managers of tile manufacturing and contracting firms in New York have been charged with conspiring to violate the Contract Labour Law, which prohibits the importation of foreign labour under contract. The indictment states that a year ago the Employers’ Association, of which the accused are members -
Not only do they . individually violate the law, but they conspire to do so - imported fifty English tile masons and instructed them to make a false declaration to the immigration authorities.
What do honorable members think of an association instructing men to make a false declaration ? -
A fortnight later the danger of a strike was averted
Apparently the employers were providing for the occurrence of a strike. In such a case here we might not be able to prove to the Minister that men were being imported for the purpose of taking work at a time of strike - and the Englishmen were discharged on the ground that they were not familiar with American tools and methods. Most of them returne’d to England in cattle sh’ips, and had to undergo a variety of hardships. Four of the mcn gave information to the Department of Commerce and Labour. Mr. Arthur T. Mart, one of the accused, is charged with going to England as an agent of the Association, and of advertising in the newspapers in that country and in Germany, offering tile masons $5 (£1) per working day of eight hours.”
My experience in Australia has been that while we have some splendid employers, we have many who are just as unscrupulous as employers in America. These employers will not hesitate to do what has been done in that country, if the opportunity be given to them. If that is done under the stringent law of America, what is likely to be done here under a less stringent law ? The “ stinking fish “ party will not, I think, be placated by the proposal of the Prime Minister. In his speech the honorable member for Parramatta referred to Mr. T. C. Coghlan. The Prime Minister has said that the object of this Bill is to remove a misapprehension in connexion with’ the contract provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act. But if Mr. Coghlan is to be credited, there is very little likelihood of this, or of any other measure achieving that object. He says -
It is not given to any country to be entirely happy. There are drawbacks to every clime, and objections may be taken to some special customs in every land. But if one were to rely on what appears about Australia in the English public prints, one would be forced fd conclude that its condition was in the last degree desperate. Hardly anything in trie shape of news appearing in the public press is such that a friend of Australia cares to read. The country is undoubtedly in very bad ;odor , here. Homilies are preached from press and pulpit to the end that Australia should mend its ways, and re- cently a new form of injurious comment has appeared in the shape of letters to the daily press, advising investors to get rid of Australian stocks before the inevitable day of repudiation should come. It is very certain that amongst the many interesting events that” happen in Australia, London is informed by cable concerning those only that are least creditable to the country, and a great part of the time of the official representatives of Australia in London is frittered away in replies to gross misrepresentations. The attitude of many Australians who have settled in this country is also strongly antagonistic to the land that has given them position and affluence, and many Englishmen with whom I have conversed, who hold strongly antagonistic views towards Australia, confessed that they had acquired them in the clubs and lea-ding hotels of Melbourne, Sydney, and other State capitals. The evil done by this indiscriminate dispraise of Australia by Australians and by the public press of this country is incalculable.
In the face of this, what is the use of bringing in a Bill, which is a mere pretence, to placate those who are vilifying the Commonwealth. I am sure that the Prime Minister will say that it is not the purpose of the Bill - although I think that it will go further than he expects - to inflict injury upon the workers. I am sure that it will not satisfy these who are condemning our present legislation. They will not be content until the Labour Party is kicked out of the Parliaments of Australia, and the government of both tha Commonwealth and the States is handed over to a syndicate of boodlers. No matter what the Prime Minister may do, he will be more grossly misrepresented than ever. The press will say that the Government and the Labour Party have made a series of blunders in the past, that they are admitting it in connexion with one Act, and that although they have been equally wrong in everything else they have done, thev will not acknowledge it in regard to other matters. I wish to read an extract from a letter written by the London correspondent of the Adelaide Advertiser. He says -
If I had the time, and it were worth the trouble, I could select from speeches of a single month’s session of the seven Australian Parliaments, and from the leading columns of newspapers published in the six Australian capitals, enough material to frame an indictment (and to prove it, too), against Australian commercial, political, and domestic morality ; against its financial credit, its business stability, and against its whole reputation as a desirable home for white men and women. Of course it would be a false indictment, yet every clause in it could be sustained by evidence drawn from the sources I have mentioned.
That is, drawn from the speeches of honorable members sitting in the Parliaments of Australia to-day. What is the use of endea- vouring to placate people of that kind. I would placate some of them with a pistol, if I had an opportunity. The Prime Minister would have done well, before introducing the Bill, to give some attention to an excellent article dealing with the Immigration Restriction Act which appeared in the Age of 2nd October. I do not agree with many things that the Age says, especially when it is dealing with industrial matters, but I must give it credit when it deserves it. I think that it has taken a national view of this great question.
– Is this the first time that the Age has deserved credit?
– I should not like to say that. There is more to be said against the Age - and every other daily paper in the Commonwealth - than is to be said for it when it is dealing with industrial matters. I do not blame the newspapers, because they have to please their customers, who are the Big advertisers, and not the workers who pay their pennies. The Age says -
It is in itself a most useful, well-conceived and salutary piece of legislation. As it stands in the statute-book it is quite free from all honest objection.
We venture to say that by no species of honest argument can that clause be ma-de to appear in any sense objectionable. It is a prohibition of contract labour, making distinct provision for special exceptions.
No one hears of any objection to such a law in America, nor would we hear of any in Australia were it not for the restless agitation of certain Conservative associations which desire to flood the labour market here in any emergency.
Such people would flood the labour market with coloured aliens in the same way that they bring into our midst goods made by cheap alien labour. The article proceeds -
All the fierce denunciations of it that we hear proceed from the Conservative advocates of “ freedom of contract,” who claim the right to employ whom they please, where they please, and on what terms they please. It follows, therefore, that this section of the Immigration Restriction Act is one against which they are in perpetual war. And to serve their ends they are willing to misrepresent it in the most atrocious manner. And yet the tools of these men in Parliament - the Reids, Joseph Cooks, Bruce Smiths, and Wilkses - can by two simple facts be proved to be absolutely hypocritical in their condemnation of the law. First, those men helped to pass the section in Parliament. Secondly, the Reid Government was in power for ten months, and never made one move towards revising it. These two circumstances are conclusive as to the hollowness of their present outcry against the law.
I am entirely in accord with that. The honorable member for Parramatta referred to a letter sent to the old country by one of the secretaries of the labour unions, that it was of no use for immigrants to come here expecting to find work and comfortable conditions. Unfortunately, that statement is too true. I challenge any honorable member to mention a single trade in Australia in which there is not a surplus of artisans awaiting employment. Every artisan who comes here, if he does not get work in his own trade, must become a competitor with those unfortunates who are obliged to content themselves with a wage of 4s. or 5s. per day.
– That is, with or without contract, he becomes a competitor.
– Exactly ; but if labour is admitted here under contract, the trouble is likely to be accentuated. Honorable members, who desire to see our country progress, should first direct their energies to securing more comfortable conditions for our people. If we want our population to increase, we must give the working classes sufficient to keep their families. [ have been much pained, when I have looked round among my acquaintances, and have seen the struggle that some fathers and mothers have had to keep their families. Until we have made those who are already here a little more comfortable than they are, we need not contemplate the encouragement of immigration. I see no justification for the introduction of this Bill, except that it will afford the Prime Minister an opportunity of showing whether he really desires to place Australian seamen upon precisely the same footing in regard te outside competition as we intend to put all the other workmen of this Continent.
– I take it that this Bill is intended to overcome the objections which have been urged against the principal Act, so far as thev relate to the introduction of British immigrants under contract to employers in Australia. But it seems to me, after having carefully periled the measure, that if that be its object, its provisions fail most lamentably to give effect to that design. In passing, I should like to point out what a powerful indictment of the labour legislation of the past fourteen years is the admission of the honorable member for Hindmarsh that the labour conditions in Australia are so bad to-day that there is not a trade in which’ there are not thousands more artisans than can find employment.
– The reason for that is that there are so many like the honorable member in the States Parliaments.
– No; the reason is that there are too few. I say that the existing conditions are a striking commentary on the futility of the kind of legislation which the Labour Party have devoted so much time to enacting. Clause 4 of the Bill,” in its present form, would practically give the Minister power to determine whether anybody at all should be permitted to enter Australia under contract. It would confer upon a Minister who was strongly in sympathy with labour extremists, or who was amenable to pressure by that party, the power of preventing any person from landing in the Commonwealth under contract. That, I contend, would be a most dangerous power to place in the hands of any Minister, inasmuch as it would enable him to absolutely override the intentions of the Act itself. We all know that Ministers are subject to the weaknesses of ordinary mortals, and in our legislation, we should recognise that fact.
– That is a chronic trouble with the honorable member.
– I have always objected to leaving to the discretion of Ministers matters which ought to be specifically provided for by .statute.
– The honorable member voted in favour of extending their powers last night.
– I did not. I said that Ministers should accept responsibility for the administration of our Acts, but that we should take care so to frame our statutes that they did nob vest Ministers with undue discretion. The position last night was entirely different from that which confronts us now.
– The cases are upon allfours.
– There is no analogy whatever between them. Clause 5 provides that the Minister shall approve of the terms of the contract only under certain conditions which are specified. I object to that provision, because it leaves everything to the discretion of the Minister, and practically there is no mandate to the Act governing the Minister’s powers. It makes the Minister a judge of conditions which no Minister could possibly have the re- quisite knowledge to form an opinion on, and absolutely compels him to approve of contracts under conditions which he cannot fulfil. For instance, it states -
The Minister shall approve the terms of the contract only -
When a copy is filed with him, and, if he so requires, is verified by oath; and
If in his opinion -
the contract is not made in contemplation of, or with a view of affecting an industrial dispute.
How is the Minister to arrive at any definite opinion upon a subject of that kind? The honorable member for Hindmarsh was upon very sound ground when he pointed out the difficulties which would confront him in that connexion. It is quite possible that a contract may be made “ in, contemplation of, or with a view of affecting an industrial dispute “ long before such a dispute is actually in existence. Employers themselves might have in mind the promotion of an industrial dispute by means of a lock-out, and take advantage of this measure to provide for contract labour before a dispute actually eventuated. Under such circumstances, the Minister’s opinion could not be relied on, and he certainly would have no option but to indorse the contract if. in his opinion, no industrial dispute was in contemplation. According to sub-paragraph a, of clause 5, the Minister must approve of the terms of the contract if there is any difficulty on the part of employer in obtaining, within the Commonwealth, a worker of at least equal skill and ability, and the remuneration and other terms and conditions are as, advantageous to the contract immigrant as those current for workers of the same class where the contract is to be performed. How is the Minister to ascertain with any degree of correctness that there is difficulty in obtaining workers of equal skill and ability? So far as I can see, the Minister would have to take the employers’ word for the fact.
– Should we not have representations from both sides?
– Possibly so, but how is the Minister to arrive at a decision ? Has, he to call a conference of employers and employes, and, after the question has been thrashed out in his presence, deal with the evidence in a judicial capacity? Such a procedure would, it appears to me, involve both employers and employes in much trouble and expense, besides causing great delay and taking away the Minister from his other duties. I cannot conceive of such a course being resorted to for the purpose of arriving at a decision on this point. A person who desired to engage contract labour might make certain representations based on self interest; indeed, an employer might honestly make representations which would have the effect of entirely misleading the Minister. It must be remembered that this Bill applies not to any one particular district, but to the whole of the Commonwealth. An employer, before he can conscientiously make application to the Minister, must ransack the Commonwealth in order to ascertain whether a worker of the necessary skill and ability can be found, and a similar duty would appear to be imposed upon the Minister. It is obvious that the suggestion of the honorable member for Boothby that both sides should lay their case before the Minister is impracticable, and, in any case, would not furnish the information requisite to enable the Minister to form an opinion. The only other means that I can seel would be the establishment of a Commonwealth bureau of labour statistics and information, which would be at the service of the Minister. Such an organization would, however, entail a great deal of expense, and it is extremely doubtful whether, after all, it would supply adequate information. Although a bureau of the kind might be worked with some degree of success, still, it might be found that workers of a certain kind were required at Cairns in Queensland, and that at Fremantle or Kalgoorlie in Western Australia there were men who possessed the necessary skill and ability. These men would have to be conveyed from Fremantle or Kalgoorlie to Cairns; and that appears to me a most ridiculous state of affairs. Under the Bill the Minister, if workers of equal skill and ability can be found in any part of Australia, must give preference to those workers. Sub-clause 3 of clause 5 provides that the Minister shall approve of the terms of the contract only -
If, where the approval is sought after the contract is made, the contract contains a copy of this and the immediately preceding section and is expressed to be made subject thereto : and
A contract might be entered into under perfectly bond fide circumstances, and the Minister, before the immigrant had landed, might discover, or form the opinion, that there was some one in another part of the
Commonwealth capable of filling the position. In such case, an absolute injustice would be done to both the employer and the immigrant, who had in good faith entered into the contract. I sincerely hope that these clauses will be materially amended with a view to avoid the possibility of the injustice I have indicated. Clause 6 provides that -
If, before the Minister approves the terms of the contract the contract immigrant lands in Australia -
My objection is that a man might come here under a perfectly bona fide contract, complying with all conditions as to the standard of living and rates of wages prevailing in Australia, and yet, if the Minister had failed to approve of the contract before he landed, he would be subjected to a penalty not exceeding whilst the employer would be liable to a penalty of £20. There are great difficulties in the way of an immigrant ascertaining before he sails for Australia’ whether or not the Minister has approved of the contract to which he is a party. Certain circumstances might prevent formal approval being given to the contract, and the immigrant might arrive here in the full belief that he was complying with all the provisions of the law. But, in the event of his landing before the Minister had approved of the terms of the contract, he would be liable to a fine of £5, and the employer, in addition to the penalties I have named, would be required to pay to the contract immigrant -
Such specified sum of money (not exceeding £50) as the Minister thinks sufficient, either to maintain the contract immigrant until he can be reasonably expected to find suitable employment, or at the option of the contract immigrant, to enable him to return to the country whence he came.
The clause also provides that -
The sum when specified in writing by the Minister shallbe recoverable By the contract immigrant orbythe Minister tor him.
As these clauses are unnecessarily harsh, and may lead to great injustice, I trust that they will be materially revised in Committee. It is quite legitimate to provide against wilful evasions of the law, but penalties of this kind should not be provided to meet cases where there has been no intent to evade it. The non-approval of the terms of the contract might be due to an oversight, or, perhaps, to neglect, on the part of the Minister himself, and I therefore hold that there should be some safeguard against the abuse of these provisions. Clause 8 provides that -
The two last preceding sections do not apply to an immigrant under a contract or agreement to serve as part of the crew of a vessel engaged in the coasting trade in Australian waters, if the rates of wages specified therein are not lower than the rates ruling in the Commonwealth.
Here we have an exception in favour of a certain class of workers, the object of which I do not clearly understand.
– The honorable member is aware that it is in the existing Act?
– Quite so; but that does not afford any clue to the reason for making such a provision. We are proposing to legislate to shut out contract immigrants ostensibly in the interests of the workers of Australia, and yet, in this clause, we have an exception made in favour of a certain, class of workers, who, if these provisions are to be applied, should be just as amenable to the contract section as are others. I cannot understand why an exception should be made in the case of maritime workers. They will come just as keenly into competition with those seamen engaged in our coastal trade, as will contract immigrants with workers employed on the wharfs, or in any other occupation. There may be some good reason for this exemption, but I have not been able to discover it. In clause II it is provided that -
This Act shall not be construed to apply to domestic servants or personal attendants accompanying their employer to Australia.
I have heard honorable members opposite, and particularly the honorable member for Darling, express in this House the utmost solicitude for the well-being of the servant girls of the Commonwealth, and yet domestics are not to be accorded the protection which manual labourers, other than sailors, are to receive. Some explanation is due. It surely cannot be said that we have not in Australia a sufficient number of women desirous of obtaining employment. The lack of employment is just as noticeable in the case of the female portion of the community as it is in regard to the male section. There seems to be an attempt to unfairly discriminate between certain classes of workers. I find that’ the last clause provides that -
The Governor-General may make regulations not inconsistent with this Act prescribing all matters and things which by this Act are required or permitted to be prescribed or which are necessary or convenient to be prescribed for giving effect to this Act.
I suppose that it is necessary that power should be given to make regulations for the effective administration of any measure of this description, but I find nothing here that will safeguard the provisions of the Bill from being overridden by regulations made- under it. Sections similar to this clause appear in other Acts, the administration of which is open to severe criticism chiefly on the ground that regulations made under those Acts have had the effect of overriding the intention which Parliament had in passing them. I have in mind particularly the regulations made under the Customs Act, and the abuses of administration which have arisen under them. We should guard against regulations being, so framed as to contravene the intention of Parliament in passing the Bill. It has struck me as peculiar, in considering legislation of this character, that we have the Prime Minister, and presumably the members of his Government, on the one hand emphasizing the need which the Commonwealth has for immigration, while on the other we find them bringing forward measures which have for their object the restriction of immigration, and the interposing of obstacles to the admission of British settlers, which must give rise to a great deal of irritation, misunderstanding, and dissatisfaction amongst our kith and kin in other portions of the Empire. The Bill before us is unfortunately only another attempt at legislation of a character which has already had most pernicious effects upon the welfare of the Commonwealth in the financial, commercial, and industrial circles, of the Empire. We have only to refer to the report of the Agents-General for proof of what I say. A copy of the report was laid on the table by the Prime Minister the other day, but so far, I believe, it has not been printed and circulated. A freds of the report has, however, appeared in the press, and I propose to refer to a few paragraphs in it which strike me as being very pertinent to the subject in hand. The Agents-General emphasize the necessity for advertising Australia, and in one of the paragraphs of the -precis of the report it is stated that -
The States should not advertise separately. They say Australia as a whole should be placed before the British people, who have invested ^147,000,000 privately in the Commonwealth, and ^197,000,000 in State and municipal bonds. They suggest that an expenditure of ^500 per annum should be authorized - to be spent through a press agency for preference - to advertise the resources of the Federation, “leaving a systematic course of lectures, exhibits, and travelling exhibits until the initial work is in going order, and extensions prove to be desirable.”
May I inquire of what use will it be to spend money in advertising the resources of Australia presumably with the intention of attracting population, and of diverting to Australia the stream of emigration now flowing to other countries, notably to Canada, when we are actually engaged in passing legislation which at the caprice of a” Minister, may have the effect of preventing the landing of a single person coming to Australia under contract, though such persons coming here to take up work must add not only to their own wealth, but to the wealth of the whole community ? We have reports from the Agents-General emphasizing the need of advertising the resources of Australia with a view specifically to showing the people of Great Britain what a splendid country Australia is by comparison with other countries to which streams of emigration are now flowing from Great Britain, and at the same time we are here engaged in putting up barriers in every port of Australia to prevent the most desirable persons who could come here from landing on our shores.
– Most desirable, because under contract?
– I say that they are, if coming here under contract to perform work under conditions complying with our standard of living and rates of wages. Men coming here under such conditions are more desirable immigrants than are the people who find their way to this country without means, without any objective, and who almost immediately become a charge” upon our charitable institutions.
– The Prime Minister’s innocence was only assumed.
– I believe it was, because the honorable and learned gentleman must see that a very wide distinction can be drawn between the two classes of immigrants, and that the immigrant who, when he arrives here, has work to go to under our accepted conditions, is a far more desirable addition to our population than is the man who comes here in circumstances which may lead him only too soon to swell the ranks of the unemployed.
– Under what conditions have most people come to Australia?
– I am speaking now of accepted conditions provided in the Bill before us. I shall refer presently to those immigrants who preceded us to Australia. The Agents-General, dealing with the language test, say -
In endeavouring to indicate the forces which mould public opinion in Great Britain, we should be neglecting our duty if we failed to give adequate weight to the far-reaching effect exercised by the language test, and the contract labour section of the Immigration Restriction Act. These have proved veritable stumbling-blocks to the work of the Agents-General, and have had a most prejudicial influence upon public opinion in every part of the Kingdom.
Nothing has more irritated public opinion than these two matters, to which we propose to revert in a separate despatch dealing with the subject of immigration.
Here we have the Agents-General indicating the sore spot, which has been the source of so much irritation against Australia, not only in Great Britain, but in other countries also. It is this class of legislation which has led to the very undesirable episodes, which are now matters of history, connected with the exclusion of the six hatters, the six potters, the unfortunate groom who was subjected to so much interference .and official annoyance, that most lamentable episode of the Petriana case, and a number of other irritating episodes to which I might justifiably refer. It is such unfortunate incidents arising out of the legislation of this Parliament that have led to the complications which are so much deplored at the present time. They have led to the opinion, right or wrong, amongst our brethren of the British Empire, that Australia is a good country to keep out of. It is legislation of this character which has led to the depreciation of Australian stock, and which threatens, if persisted in, to leave Australia far behind in the race for population, wealth, and prominence. I deplore the effects of our present legislation, but I hope that, in the future, better and wiser counsels will prevail, and that, while doing everything necessary to protect the interests of our workers, we shall impose only such restrictions upon immigration as will exclude paupers, diseased persons, criminals, and other undesirables, and cause as little irritation as possible to the people of other countries,- and, particularly, to our own kith and kin across the seas. It is most unstatesmanlike that we should strive to keep out of Australia all who wish to come here from the United Kingdom. We can never build up a great nation in the Southern Hemisphere if we do not open our lands to productive settlement and encourage the immigration of population of the right kind. I am in accord with those whodesire to keep our race pure, and to protect it from the competition of undesirable immigrants. That object, however, is provided for in a more or less effective manner in the Immigration Restriction Act and in the amending Bill with which we dealt yesterday. Those whom we are now trying to keep out are not aliens, but persons of our own blood, whom we should welcome with open arms. I desire to do everything necessary to legitimately maintain high rates of wages, and a high standard of living and comfort, in Australia, and to improve our present conditions as much as possible. Therefore, I would support legislation introduced with that object, if it were based on sound principles, and followed certain right lines. I do not agree with the honorable member for Hindmarsh that we should either allow contract labour to come to this country indiscriminately and without hindrance, or keep out all who wish to come here under contract. We should be perfectly justified in legislating, to prevent the introduction of labour under contract, brought here to reduce the rates of wages, or to take the place of men who had gone out on strike to secure better conditions. As the deputy leader of the Opposition has rightly pointed out, our legislation should alsobe directed to preventing intending immigrants from being deceived as to the conditions prevailing here. Allegations might be made to intending immigrants to induce them to sign contracts to come to the country to work here which would be absolutely untrue, so far as they related to the rates of wages and prevailing conditions of labour.
– The Prime Minister says that the Bill will prevent that from being done.
– The Bill, if passed, in its present form, will, not only keep out such people, but will also keep out a number of others who should be encouraged to come here. Then, again, we are justified in legislating to prevent men from coming here under contract to take the place of others who are on strike, or protesting against unjust conditions or reductions of wages. I should like to see the labour conditions of Australia the best obtaining in any part of the civilized world. The wage-earning classes are the largest spenders in the community, and those engaged in the retail distribution of commodities owe their increase or diminution of prosperity largely to the spending power of the wage earners. Therefore, anything tending to lower thu rates of wages, or the standard of living among our working classes, would be detrimental to the interests of Australia, and1 anything having an opposite tendency should, and would, obtain the cordial support of all who have the welfare of Australia at heart. But we must be careful not to keep out desirable immigrants. Where would those who desire to keep out all labour arriving here under contract be if legislation such as they would like to see passed had had effect during the last few decades ? Would it not have excluded their grandfathers and fathers, and greatly reduced our population ? Of course, we cannot expect much from immigration until our land laws have been so liberalized that the country districts can absorb the large surplus population of the cities.
– Would not a good land tax help to bring that about?
– Yes, under certain, conditions. Would the honorable member support such a tax?
– A Federal land tax? Undoubtedly. Would not the honorable member support it?
– Under certain conditions ; but I am not at liberty to discuss the matter now. I may, however, be permitted to point out that a just settlement of the land question wil.l do far more to secure the best possible conditions for the wage earners, and the people generally of this great Continent, than all the so-called labour measures over which we are wasting so much time. The honorable member for Hindmarsh asserted that it will be possible to replace the’ kanakas in the sugar industry of Queensland without importing labour under contract. I hope that he is right, but, if the facts are as he has’ stated1 them, I am surprised that a large number of the unemployed of our cities have not already been absorbed by the sugar industry, seeing what a large amount the Commonwealth has paid in bounties to the sugar-growers to encourage the employment of white labour on their plantations. I have admitted that the condition of our land laws is a stumbling block to the encouragement of immigration. We can never hope to progress as a nation until we have made some radical changes in our conditions of land tenure.
– By means of a good land tax.
– I care not how it is done, but it is urgently necessary to open up the lands of Australia to settlement. The existing land laws have prevented settlement, and have hindered production, with the result that huge armies of unemployed, which should find work in the country, are congregated in the cities of the Commonwealth. Let us look at the populations of some’ of the countries adjacent to us. At present we have a population of barely 4,000,000, and yet India and China, “which, combined, have an area only about equal to that of Australia, support a population of 700,000,000. India has 300,000,000 and China 400,000,000 inhabitants, yet each of these countries is but half the size of Australia. Japan, which has an area equal to only about one-eighteenth of that of Australia, has a population of 46,000,000, or eleven and a half times as many inhabitants as the Commonwealth. The populations of Japan, India, and China are rapidly growing, whereas ours is practically at a standstill, if it is not declining. Java has an area equal to about one-sixtieth of the area of Australia, and yet it supports a population of 30,000,000- seven and a half times that of Australia. Thus we have presented to us the spectacle of 776,000,000 people - nearly half the population of the world - occupying an area wry little larger than that of Australia. And yet we hear people complain that the Commonwealth is overpopulated ! Although we may legislate against peaceful invasions by foreign peoples we cannot legislate against armed invasions. The only protection we have at present is that afforded by the Imperial Navy. But our surest safeguard against invasion in the future will lie in our increasing our population by the introduction of virile white settlers. Looking at the matter from this stand-point, it is advisable for us, in our own interests, after providing means for the settlement of our own people upon the lands of the country, to open the door as wide as possible for an influx of desirable immigrants. At the same time we should safeguard ourselves against the introduction of labour that would enter into unfair competition with our own people, and result in a reduction of wages and of the standard of living. The Bill in its present form, so far as it professes to remedy the objectionable features of the Immigration Restriction Act, is a mockery, a delusion, and a snare. Whilst it professes to meet some of the objections that have been raised to the legislation!,, unfortunately now on our statutebook, it increases the disabilities that have been complained of. I trust that the measure will undergo much-needed amendment - that we shall take care not to exclude desirable people, but shall direct our prohibition solely to those whose introduction would tend to prejudice the best interests of our workers, and the best interests of Australia generally.
– Honorable members know that I was one of those who offered the strongest opposition to the contract section of the Immigration Restriction Act. I considered that it would have the effect of shutting out the best class of labourers that could be introduced here from the old world, and1, in addition to that, I feared - and I regret to say that my fears have been justified - that it would bring Australia into disrepute among the nations. I know, as a mattar of fact, that we are now regarded - mainly on account of the provision we have made for the exclusion of immigrants and for the employment of only white crews upon ocean mail steamers - as a narrow-minded, selfish people, who, like the dog in the manger, are content to allow our magnificent resources to remain undeveloped rather than permit people of our own kith and kin from ‘the old world to come here and assist us in building up a great nation. I regret to say there is a great deal of justification for this view. It may be imagined, therefore, that I hailed with great satisfaction! the promise of an amendment of the contract section; but I need hardly say that I was grievously disappointed when I read the proposed amendment. I believe that the intention is good ; that it is not desired to place any restriction upon desirable immigrants, except they are brought here by employers at a time of industrial strife, or under contracts which do not provide for the prevailing rates of wages, and for the observance of the conditions under which industrial occupations are pursued in Australia. Unfortunately, however, the Bill is drafted in such a way as to make the pro posed amendment absolutely useless. I fear that the measure is the conception of. one of our legal friends, who has not consulted any business man. The restrictions placed upon immigrants under the Bill are such as would preclude any man from attempting to come out here. Imagine any person coming out here under contract without knoWing beforehand whether he would be permitted to land.
– But he will know if the contract is lodged beforehand. The person who wants to import labour will -probably be an Australian, and he can either personally, or through his agent, submit the proposed contract to the Minister in Australia beforehand.
– The proposed .amendment of the law does not say that.
– No, but “ that is what would be done in most cases.
– I do not consider that the method contemplated is practicable. In the cas.e of men being brought out here to settle an industrial dispute, the innocent immigrant, who knew nothing about the reasons for which he was engaged, would be made to suffer, instead of the employer who alone should be punished. A provision by which an employer bringing out men under contract in contravention of these provisions might be made to pay a certain sum for the support of the nien, or, if they preferred it, to pay for sending them Home again, would, in my opinion, be quite effective. . The immigrant himself should not be prejudiced in any way. In the case of immigrants brought out under contract to work at lower wages, and worse conditions than those prevailing here, the proper remedy would be to make the contract voidable. If a man found that he was brought out to work at’ a lower wage than was current in his trade in Australia, he should be at liberty to break his contract, and the employer should be compelled to pay something towards his support’ until he could obtain other work. The employer here understands what the law is, and if he breaks it in letter or spirit, he, and not the innocent immigrant should be made to suffer. It appears to me that the Bill has been drawn up under a misapprehension- - under the impression that employers here are extremely anxious to bring out men under contract, and that the workers in the old country are straining like greyhounds in the leash to come here. That is not the case. Other countries hold out all sorts of inducements to immigrants.
– Our politicians of the past have sold all our lands, and we are prevented from offering inducements to immigrants, such as are presented by other countries.
– Has the honorable member heard any of the immigration lecturers sent Home by the States Governments?
– I have never heard them lecturing in England; but I have read statements which some of them are reported to have made.
– If the honorable member had heard them, he would not wonder why the people do not rush out to Australia.
– If one of those lecturers induced my honorable friend to come out here, he did him, as well as Australia, a very good turn. He induced a very good man to come here. We know perfectly well that, after all, the profit that an employer can make out of the labour of a man - not being a thoroughly skilled artisan or mechanic - is very small. He is not willing to incur a great risk to bring them out. I do not think that any fair employer will object to being subjected to reasonable penalties for knowingly introducing men under contract, either at a lower rate of wages than that which prevails here, or for the purpose of settling an industrial dispute. The employer who wilfully violates those conditions should be made to bear the whole of the penalty.
– Does not the honorable member think that he would object to be punished?
– He might object, but if he did wrong he would have to submit to the penalty which the law prescribed. If we wish to attract good men to our shores, it is idle to expect them to come upon the off-chance that upon their arrival they may be allowed to land. I was very much disappointed with the Prime Minister’s classification of desirable immigrants when introducing this Bill. He laid it down very emphatically that our first aim should be to secure what he termed “ free men.” Failing to obtain this class - the free men being unemployed - he said that immigrants might be introduced under contract under proper conditions as to wages and standard of living. I venture to say that if he had consulted any practical man he would have been told that exactly the reverse should be our aim. Will any one venture to say that the unemployed here - the men who meet us every day at the street corners with a request for the price of a meal - are more valuable colonists than the industrious, thrifty individuals who can always obtain work? We know that it is not so. One industrious, enterprising, pushing man is worth half-a-dozen idlers.
– But some men who are unemployed are not idlers.
– I quite admit that; but at the same time, I know men who, for the past five or six years, have come to me every week for a small dole. They are young enough, and strong enough, to work, but either they cannot procure it, or they cannot keep it.
– In my electorate, I could show the honorable member thousands of men who are not working half-time throughout the year, and who do not appeal to anybody for assistance.
– I sympathize with those who really believe that an influx of population to Australia would make it more difficult for the workers who are already here to obtain employment. If I held that opinion, I would hesitate a long time before I would advocate the introduction of immigrants into our midst.
– Does not the honorable member think that that would be the result if the artisan classes came here?
– Certainly not. Of course, I should like to introduce several classes.
– If there were two artisans available for each job that is offering the honorable member argues that they would have a better chance of obtaining employment.
– They would not if there were only one job offering ; but I believe that the influx of a suitable population would develop a large number of new industries, and open up extensive avenues of employment. I have seen the same result brought about in the past. There is no older colonist in this House than I am. I can recollect the conditions which prevailed here prior to 1851 when the gold discoveries were responsible for the first great influx of people into Australia. At that time we possessed a very small population, and the current rate of wages for good station hands was 10s. per week.It ranged from 8s. to 12s. per week, but the prevailing rate was 10s.
– They also received their “ keep.”
– Of course. At that time there was scarcely a night upon which a number of swagmen looking for work did not put in an appearance at my father’s station. They would get a night’s lodging there, and sufficient food to carry them on to the next station. Occasionally, if they were really hard up, they were given a week’s work, in order to enable them to obtain a few shillings. So far as I can remember, the great majority of them were good, steady, industrious men. But there were no industries in existence at that time, and no avenues of employment open to them. In proportion to the population, there were far more unemployed then than there are now. I believe that an influx of a useful class of immigrants would result in opening up a large number of new industries, and would provide new fields for the employment of labour. No class would ultimately benefit more than would the working men. In regard to that section of the Immigration Restriction Act which has brought Australia into bad odour all over the civilized world, I think it would be a great pity if we amended it in such a way as to effect no practical improvement in the existing law.
– Does the honorable member wish us to allow immigrants under contract to be introduced, subject to no conditions whatever?
– No. I would not be a party to bringing men into Australia under contract for the purpose of settling an industrial dispute.
– How would the honorable member prevent that being done?
– By making penalties attach to an employer who introduced immigrants for that purpose. But I would not punish the innocent man who had been brought out without any knowledge of the conditions which obtained here.
– But we must have some method of finding that out.
– We may trust those persons who would be specially interested in such a case - the men upon strike - to draw attention to the matter. The Bill should provide proper penalties for any breach of the law on the part of an employer, but it should not punish the innocent immigrant. The latter should not be left in doubt as to the treatment which would be meted out to him upon his arrival here.
– What does the honorable member suggest should be done if immigrants under contract are introduced prior to a strike, and a reduction is made in the men’s wages within three months of their arrival ?
– I contend that we should punish the guilty person, and not the innocent immigrant. I disagree with the Prime Minister’s statement as to the relative merits of freemen and bondmen 1 think there was never a greater perversion of the true meaning of those terms than that which he resorted to when he characterized the unemployed individual as the freeman, and the man who is always in work as the bondman.
– I do not think that he did that.
– He said that we should first endeavour to attract freemen to our shores.
– By that he meant men who were not under engagement.
– When this proposal was under a discussion upon a former occasion, I heard several of my honorable friends opposite declare that they would welcome any number of free Britishers, but not a bondman. I venture to say that if any of them were personally interested they would very soon learn that what they are pleased to term the “ bondmen “ are infinitely preferable to the individuals who come to this country to join the unemployed.
– Who made the statement to which the honorable member is referring?
– I say that any man who comes to Australia with the intention of earning his living by his own honest labour must be a member of the unemployed until he has procured employment. It is only those who swell the ranks of the unemployed in the old country who would venture to come to Australia under such conditions. A man in England will not forsake his work, unless he has an opportunity to better his position. Moreover, if a thousand men in search of work landed here to-morrow, they might become a very serious charge on the community, whereas if a similar number entered the Commonwealth for the purpose of engaging in remunerative employment, they would, at once, prove of benefit to the community.
– Can the honorable member tell me of an industry in which that number of workers would be required here?
– Then let me say five or six workers. My argument is in no way affected by the number of immigrants who might seek admission.
– Can the honorable member mention an industry in which five or six additional men are required?
– If there are no industries in Australia, immigrants will not come here. The question is : “Is it desirable to shut out persons if they are willing to enter into new industries?” Is it wise for us to exclude them, because that is really what we have done.
– No, no.
– My honorable friend must admit that we have done so.
– Will the honorable member cite a case?
– I will answer the honorable member in true Scotch fashion by asking him another question. Can he tell me how many coloured aliens have been excluded by our Immigration Restriction laws ?
– A great number.
– Probably hundreds of thousands. The law prevented them from landing here, and consequently they did not come. Exactly the same argument is applicable to the contract section in the Immigration Restriction Act. That provision makes it illegal for persons to come here under contract, and consequently they do not come.
– That provision was not half so effective in excluding immigrants under contract, as was the action of some employers who put men in gaol because they refused to take the place of strikers.
– I am in favour of legislation that will make that condition of affairs impossible. I will go as far as anybody to attain legitimate objects. But I think that any amendment of the existing law should partake of the nature of a real, and not a pretended, cure of existing evils. I feel sure that this Bill was introduced with the very best intentions, but, evidently, it has been framed without a sufficient knowledge of existing conditions.
– Surely the honorable member can indicate some industry in which, employers cannot obtain suitable men in Australia.
– It is not necessary to do that. All I wish to do is to insure that every section of the community shall be free to do what it considers best in the interests of Australia. I claim that to attract to our shores population of the right stamp is in the interests of Australia. We should endeavour to induce people to come here under contract, because we should then have a guarantee that they would be useful citizens from the day that they landed. They would begin to earn wages and to contribute to the revenue, and, generally, to enrich the country from the day they landed.
– That would be all right if the men obtained work in addition to those already employed; but they are brought here to displace those already in employment.
– But the effect of a larger population would be the development of a number of new industries, opening up fresh fields of labour. This would be quite as much in the interests of the workers already in Australia as it would be in the interests of any other class. Anything that tends to increase our output, and so to add to the wealth of the Commonwealth, provided that we take precautions for the proper’ distribution of the additional wealth, must necessarily benefit every section of the community. I did not enter the House this afternoon with the intention of speaking, and, as I have to leave shortly, I. shall content myself with this brief expression of the conclusions which I formed on reading the Bill. There are many other important points that I have left untouched, but, to my mind, the principal difficulty is that, whilst the intention of the Government is good, the measure is so framed that it will absolutely fail to remove the evils in the existing law, of which complaint has been made.
– The honorable member for Gippsland seems to have taken up the attitude of the man who is always prepared to say - “I told you so.” He assumes that the contract labour section of the original Act has been the means of discrediting Australia in the eyes of the rest of the world.
– No doubt it has.
– I am prepared to admit that unpatriotic persons have, by misrepresenting the wording and the object of the Act, sought to defame Australia.
– The most serious slander that has been uttered against Australia is the statement that there is no room here for a worker.
– If such a slander has been uttered, it has emanated from a small section of the community, with whom the honorable member associates, which is more frequently engaged than is any other in defaming the Commonwealth. The question under discussion at the present time is whether or not the provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act prohibiting the introduction of workers to take the place of men on strike shall be repealed and reintroduced in another form in another Bill.
– That is not the question.
– The section which it is proposed to amend was framed with the object of preventing the introduction of men for such purposes. It is true that certain restrictions are imposed, but they are subject to the following proviso: -
Provided that this paragraph shall not apply to workmen exempted by the Minister for special skill required in Australia, or to persons under contract or agreement to serve as part of the crew of a vessel engaged in the coasting trade in Australian waters if the rates of wages specified therein are not lower than the rates ruling in the Commonwealth.
I submit that the paragraph in question can serve but one purpose. It is designed to prevent the introduction of a number of men under conditions and circumstances which, in the opinion of the majority of the people, make their landing undesirable.
– The Act makes the Minister, not the man who finds the money, the judge of the skill of the workmen.
– That objection will not be removed by this Bill. The workers, supported by the great bulk of the people, are justified in believing that, as they have struggled to secure reasonable conditions of labour, a law should be passed to prevent unscrupulous employers introducing from abroad labourers under contract to work under unfair conditions.
– No one objects to that.
– And yet honorable members of the Opposition would remove the safeguard against the introduction of men under unfair conditions.
– The honorable member wishes to go further than his words suggest.
– The honorable member for Gippsland finds fault with every proposal made by this Government.
– And with every reason.
– No sufficient reason has vet been shown. I seriously doubt whether it is wise for the Government to propose to amend the contract section of the original Act. I believe, notwithstanding the unpatriotic statements of a few individuals, that it has given the greatest satisfaction to all who understand the object at which it aims. The chief complaint I have heard against it is that it has not been administered with sufficient thoroughness. Whether it be wise or not to amend it, I am not in a position to say. The Government say that it is, and I presume that they will secure the support of a majority of the House in giving effect to their intention. I hold that any provision against the introduction of contract labour should legitimately appear in the Immigration Restriction Act.
– In the one case we are dealing with coloured aliens upon one basis, while in the other we are dealing with an economic question upon another.
– Evidently the Ministry consider it advisable to deal with the question of contract labour in a separate measure.
– Why confuse the two when we can make each complete?
– I think that by dealing with contract labour in a separate Bill we shall lead to greater confusion than before. A man who desired to know whether there were any legal obstacles in the way of his landing here would naturally turn to the Immigration Restriction Act, but, if the Government proposal be adopted, he will look there in vain for information as to the law relating to contract labour.
– If he came here under contract, he would not think it necessary to look anywhere for information on the subject.
– Surely a man who makes a contract with workers should be conversant with the laws of the country to which it relates.
– And that is the man who should be held responsible.
– I am prepared to place that responsibility upon him. If the object of the majority of honorable members will be achieved by this Bill, I do not think there is any reason for serious complaint, and therefore I shall support the motion for the second reading. But there are one or two provisions, which will vest in the Ministry a discretionary power greater than should be given to any Administration. Paragraph b of clause 5 provides that the Minister shall approve the terms of the contract only if, in his opinion -
There is difficulty in the employer’s obtaining within the Commonwealth a- worker of at least equal skill and ability.
Under such a provision, a Minister, who was not in sympathy with the law, would, in all probability, be easily convinced that there was a difficulty in obtaining a number of labourers in a given industry.
– And vice versa.
– Quite so; and that is an additional reason why we should clearly express our intentions in the Bill itself, leaving as little as possible to the discretion of the Minister. That is one of the provisions wh’ich I hope the Committee will amend. Another amendment will also be necessary. Section 7 of the original Act gives, the officer concerned the right to question immigrants as to whether or not they are coming here under contract. It has been well known for some time in Western Australia that Italians have been entering that State. On proceeding to Kalgoorlie they are met at the railway station by some of their compatriots, who take them away to mines under particular control, where they almost immediately secure employment. In other branches of industry they are also securing a very considerable preference, and are thus displacing our own countrymen. It is difficult to prove, but there is no doubt in my mind, or in the minds of many others, that these men, before leaving Italy, enter into an agreement to serve in Western Australia. As the result of representations made by me, additional vigilance is now being exercised by the immigration officials of Western Australia; but it is almost impossible to prove the existence of these contracts. If a provision were inserted in the Bill authorizing our officers, where they have reasonable suspicion that a contract exists, to put immigrants on their oath, and question them on the point, it would remove much of my objection to the Bill. Honorable members opposite accuse the Labour Party of being desirous of keeping Australia empty-
– I do not say that the Labour Party is desirous of doing so, but that has been the effect of some of the legislation, which it has supported.
– I deny that we are desirous of doing so, or that our legislation, has had that effect. Those who know the conditions of this country are aware that the great crying evil in Australia to-day is the manner in which our land’s are locked up in huge estates, carrying a few sheep instead of supporting mem and women.
– The alienation of our lands came about before there was a Labour Party.
– Yes, many years before,, and the Labour Party has greatly justified its existence by continually objecting to the present conditions, and making strenuous efforts to break up the large estates. In Victoria and New South Wales there are scores and scores of farmers’ sons who are unable to make a living on the family holding, and cannot get land for themselves. In Western Australia an effort is being made to cope with this evil by progressive and advanced land administration, with the result that over 1,000 persons are coming to that State every month, the immigrants last year numbering over 16,000.
– Whence did they come?
– Chiefly from the eastern States. Many of them were ‘farmers’ sons who had been driven out of Victoria and New South Wales because so much of the fertile land in these States is locked up from settlement, and devoted wholly to the breeding of sheep and rabbits. As a Western Australian, I am glad that my State is able to attract a large percentage of the best asset of’ the eastern States ; but when the land there has been distributed - though that will take some time, because we have great resources - our people will have to go across the seas to find an opportunity to obtain a livelihood, unless a change is made in the land legislation of the other States.
– Will the Bill alter the condition of affairs to which the honorable member refers?
– No. The question shows the hypocrisy of those who say that it is legislation of this kind that is responsible for Australia’s want of population, which is really due to the shamefully bad land administration of the eastern States.
– Then why not try to alter that ?
– The most innocent member of this House must know that we cannot deal with land matters. The honorable member is supported by the employers, land-owners, and monopolists of the country.
– They do not support him; he is a single-taxer.
– Then he is an exception to most on that side of the House. We do not wish men to come to this country bound. I welcome the man who drifts here in the hope of bettering his condition, and improving the position of affairs in Australia. But it is not desirable that men should be brought here under contract to labour for rates of wages, and under conditions, worse than those obtaining in the country.
– I shall offer only a few words on the Bill, because I recognise that the feeling of serenity with which we ought to approach the festive Christmas season should not be disturbed by reverberations from scenes of tumult and strife. But it is my duty to point out the possibility of improving the measure in the direction suggested by the honorable member for Gippsland, and at the same time accomplishing what is reasonable in the demands of our honorable friends opposite. When the Immigration Restriction Bill was under consideration in 1901, the contract labour provision was proposed by the honorable member for Bland in a very short speech. The Prime Minister of the day followed, and pointed out that the clause, as he understood it, was designed merely to prevent men from being brought to Australia under contract, in ignorance of the conditions prevailing here. That is the sense in which it was generally interpreted, and accepted by honorable members. Sir Edmund Barton’s words are recorded at page 5366. of volume IV. of the Hansard, .report, and are as follows : -
It tends to prevent the admission into the Commonwealth of persons who, especially if they are not well educated, will be probably - or may be, at any rate - brought here in ignorance of our industrial conditions, and who will thus enter into bargains which they would not have made if they had had the opportunity of observing the working of our institutions.
What is to prevent us from declaring, in so many words, that men are not to be brought to Australia to fill the places of others on strike, and that the wages to be paid to men coming here under contract are to be, not the wages provided for in the contract, but the wages ruling in Australia, where they are higher than the contract rates? What more is needed that that? The Bill is a verv elaborate one, drawn up in such a way as to cloud its meaning. T am with the
Labour Party in desiring to prevent blacklegs from coming here. Thev do not wish men to be brought here who will reduce the rates of wages. Cannot that end be met by expressly prohibiting the introduction of men to fill the place of strikers ? I do not think the Bill should do more than that, provided the second condition which I have mentioned is also inserted, that the rates of wages to be paid under any contract shall be at least those prevailing in Australia. The measure, however, delegates the’ authority of Parliament to the Minister, which’ is a very vicious development of parliamentary government. Instead of sticking to the good old British principle of representative government. Parliament is gradually handing, over its powers to Boards and to Ministers.
– Yesterday the Opposition thought that the Minister, not Parliament, should fix the language test prescribed in the Immigration Restriction Amendment Bill.
– What I said was that, if a measure is passed saying that a certain language shall be prescribed, what is meant is that it shall be prescribed by regulation, not by Act of Parliament. This Bill does not provide that the conditions under which men may enter Australia shall be prescribed by regulations, over which Parliament would have control, but leaves the whole matter at the discretion of the Minister, whose exercise of that discretion cannot be challenged either by the Courts of Just:ce or by Parliament. The whole matter is left to a Minister, who, under the pressure of supporters, might be forced to do a gross act of injustice, or to administer the men sure in- a way never contemplated by Parliament. Clause 5 provides that the Minister shall approve of the terms of the contract only when a con-v is filed with him. and “ if in his opinion “ the conditions set out in sub-clause 2 are complied with. That means that no man will be able to enter the Commonwealth unless with the permission of the Minister. No regulations will have to be framed which will come before Parliament, and we shall have no opportunity to challenge a Minister for any improper exercise of authority. It may be objected that Parliament can always get ri’d of a Minister, but whenever a Minister is attacked for any act of maladminis- tration, other considerations sway honorable members in coming to a vote. The Bill leaves it to the discretion of the Minister to allow or to refuse men under contract to enter Australia.’ The Minister is not even called upon to exercise his discretion in a particular manner. We know what human nature is, and we know that Ministers are apt to exercise discretion in the manner most conducive to the achievement of their ambitions. Even from the point of view of the Minister himself, the Bill, as drafted, does not seem to accomplish its object. Clause 6. for instance, affords temptation to an immigrant to land in contravention of the Act. It provides that if an immigrant lands in Australia before the Minister has approved of the terms of the contract, the contract shall be absolutely void. If se, there will be no contract in existence, and there will be no contract immigrant. “ Contract immigrant” is defined as “ an immigrant under a contract or agreement to perform manual labour in Australia,” and if, under the circumstances referred to, the contract is void, there can be no contract immigrant. It is provided also that the contract immigrant shall be entitled to recover ,£50 from the employer if the Minister thinks fit to approve of his claim. If a man slips past the officials, and is allowed to land in contravention of the Act, he can no longer be a contract immigrant, and, therefore, cannot recover, under the provision of paragraph d. of clause 6, the sum of ,£50 that is to be given to him if the Minister thinks it ought to be so given. Then, again, from whom is he to recover the money ? Not from the employer, in the ordinary sense. If honorable members will look at the definition of “ employer,” they will see that it goes a very long way in the direction of making subject to the penal provisions of clause 6 men who may be innocent. An employer not only includes the party who contracts with the immigrant, but “an.v person on whose behalf that party so contracts, and any person employing or intending to employ the contract immigrant.” There is no distinction drawn between the man who has engaged the immigrant and the person who may subsequently employ him, or who may intend to employ him, and, therefore, any one of these “ employers ‘ ‘ will be liable to be brought within the penal provisions of clause 6 if the Minister thinks fit. I say that even from the point of view of the Ministerial policy, this Bill is not properly drafted. Then again clause 9 provides -
The Governor-General may, by order published in the Gazette, order that from and after a date therein specified, the immigration of contract immigrants intended to be brought to Australia for or in connexion with or in contemplation of a dispute relating to industrial matters shall be prohibited subject to such exceptions and limitations as are expressed in the order.
What does that mean? The GovernorGeneral need’ not include any exceptions or limitations in the order and therefore all the Minister would have to do would be to draw up a proclamation, and, after submitting it to the Governor-General, publish it in the Commonwealth Gazette. Then the whole of the ^provisions under which men are supposed to be able to come here would be abrogated. In one case, the Minister is free to exercise his discretion as to whether men shall be permitted to come here, and in the other case the Ministry as a whole can repeal the Act, without any reference to Parliament. This class of legislation is not only unfair to men in other parts of the British possessions, who ought to be free to come here without being compelled to go cap-in-hand to the Minister, but it is unfair to this House, because it places in the hands of Ministers powers which should be exercised by the Legislature. The Prime Minister cannot be congratulated upon the drafting of the Bill, because, even assuming that his objects are good, they are not covered by the measure.
– The sparsely occupied benches in the Chamber this morning show that the House has by its assiduous and continued labours worn itself to a skeleton ; and, in my opinion, the earlier it is entombed the better. I must say that the measure now before us surprises me. By the Prime Minister’s forecast of his intention, I was led to expect that some of the objections taken by the British people to the Immigration Restriction Act would be removed by the Bill. The Prime Minister is becoming more and more of a mystery to me. By his words he sets up the highest ideals, and by his acts destroys them. He is mounted on a hobby-horse, with his face to the tail. He says, “There is my goal in front of me” - and so it is. But he is entirely oblivious to the fact that as soon as he puts his steed in motion he will be carried further and further away from the object of his ambition. At any rate that is the result, to my mind, of certain measures such as the Bill which engaged our attention yesterday, and the Bill that is now before us. We can all remember that when the contract section - the unfortunate administration of which, in one instance, caused great misconception and great discontent in Great Britain - was adopted, it was stated distinctly - and the assurance was accepted by the whole House - that it was intended to prevent contract labour from being introduced here in connexion with industrial disputes, or on such terms as would reduce the existing rates of pay and general conditions in Australian industries. With that proposal,as then presented, the majority of honorable members were quite in accord, but the administration of the Act has created a wrong impression in the motherland, and it is apparently considered necessary to take steps to remove that impression.
– Were not those misconceptions caused by misrepresentations?
– Some of them may have been, but others have naturally arisen from the administration of the Act, and from the apparent intention of the people of Australia, as announced by some honorable members, that there should be no further immigration. We find that instead of easing the terms of the Act, the Bill sets up further barriers. The administration of the Act depends now largely upon the discretion of the Minister. He is called upon to consider the circumstances of the case - and Parliament agreed to that condition, owing to the difficulty of enacting a measure that would meet every case - and he is at liberty to grant or refuse admission according to his discretion. Now it is proposed to set up several other barriers. After all these have been successfully overcome, the Minister will still be in a position to reject any immigrant, whether British or foreign, who may come out under contract. I cannot see how any such provisions are likely to remove the impression that has arisen in Great Britain, or create satisfactory feelings in Great Britain and its dependencies, or encourage immigrants who are leaving the shores of Great Britain in such enormous numbers annually, to turn their faces inthe direction of Australia.
– Does not the honorable member think that all contracts in, flesh and blood should be shown to be fair?
– I do not think there should be any necessity to submit to the Government the arrangements between man and man, such as those made in our midst, unless there are good reasons for interference. No objection is taken to provision for submitting the contract to the Minister where it may be necessary. But if the intention originally expressed, namely, to prevent labour from being introduced at a time of industrial strife or under contracts providing for lower wages and worse conditions than exist in Australians to be carried into effect, no objection will be raised1 to provisions directed to that end. That is what I expected the Bill would provide. But, instead of doing that, it puts greater difficulties in the way of the admission of our fellow British citizens and others into Australia, and in addition preserves all the powers which are vested in the Minister under the principal Act. In introducing the Bill, the Prime Minister said -
As I have said over and over again, an empty Australia is not a White Australia.
I entirely agree with him, and I am prepared to embody my opinion in an enactment when I have the opportunity to do so. I say that this Bill, inasmuch as it is an intimation that the people of Australia are not ready to welcome members of their own race from the mother land, will retard immigration much more than it will affect the contract immigrant. It will restrain, not merely the contract labourer from coming to our shores, but it will prevent - as the administration of the present Act has done- thousands of capable persons who would have assisted in the development of our resources, and in the creation of prosperity, from coming here.
– Half the farmers in Australia to-day were at one. time farm labourers.
– Of course. It would almost seem that there is no necessity for this Bill, because the number of immigrants who have entered Australia under contract is so limited. Of course, it may properly be argued that more would have -come in the absence of the legislation which is upon our statute-book. I would not object to confining the measure to what it was intended the principal Act should accomplish, and no more. If we look at the provisions of this Bill we shall realize the difficulties which will confront immigrants who are offered engagements in Australia. I agree with the honorable member for Gippsland that a man who comes to our shores under a contract, at fair wages, is infinitely freer than is the individual who comes here without any such contract.
– That is a poor compliment to pay the pioneer.
– Many of the pioneers came out under engagement, and no ill effect resulted to Australia. The man who leaves the country of his birth to accept work in another where strange conditions prevail, and where the people are unknown to him, must feel himself freer than does the individual who leaves that country without any knowledge of whether or not he will secure employment upon his arrival.
– There is nothing in this Bill to prevent any man who is a specialist coming to Australia.
– But, in nearly all cases, these agreements must be for the employment of specialists. If we are prepared to gay that the contracts of persons who come here ignorant of the prevailing conditions, and who are consequently -deceived, should be void, and that men shall not be imported under ‘contract in connexion with an industrial . dispute all those who are introduced under agreement must inevitably be specialists.
– That was not so in the case under the principal Act which caused all the annoyance.
– I differ entirely from the honorable member. I am sure he will admit that no better evidence can be obtained that an employer requires to import labour for particular work than that which is supplied by the fact that he is willing, not only to pay the ordinary rate of wages obtaining in Australia, but also to advance the passage money of those men, and to incur the risk which he must take when they are brought from a distance, seeing that he has no knowledge of their capabilities and character. No sane employer would ever dream of undertaking the importation of men in view of the risks which must be incurred if he could obtain men who would s.u’t his purpose equally well on the spot.
– The words “ suit his purpose” are pregnant with meaning.
– An employer would not import men from abroad if he could obtain others locally who would suit his industrial purposes. If we deprive employers of the opportunity to obtain men at reduced rates of wages, or to import them for the purpose of interfering in an industrial dispute, we shall remove all inducements to the improper importation, of immigrants under contract.
– No, no.
– The honorable member has had some experience of industry, but probably I have had quite as large an acquaintance with it, and what I have stated is my opinion. The Prime Minister has himself admitted that there have only been a few dozen cases in which immigrants have been imported under contract.
– There is often no means of ascertaining when men are imported under contract.
– We do not touch that aspect of the case in this Bill. If we cannot discover that a contract exists, it is quite impossible to touch those who are parties to it. The fact that only some two dozen persons have been brought into Australia under contract shows that experts alone have been introduced in that way.
– They were supposed to be exceptional men, but facts have proved that they were not.
– That is very possible. I have just been pointing out that the employer incurs a great risk in importing workmen, and that he would not willingly do so if he could secure the requisite labour locally. For what does this Bill provide? First of all, it provides that the Minister must approve of the terms of the contract into which an immigrant has entered before the contract labourer is allowed to land in Aus,talia. I am sure that the honorable member for Newcastle does not desire to prevent the establishment of new industries, and the consequent creation of wealth and employment. Now, it very frequently happens that an employer visits a country where certain industries are in existence, sees what is being done, and comes to the conclusion that one of those industries might with advantage be started in his own land. Consequently, he wishes to interview men with a view to selecting employes. But he will be prevented from doing so by the provision which requires any agreement into which he may enter to be approved by the Minister before the contract labourer is permitted to land.
– Would the honorable member allow an employer to bring in men haphazard ?
– No. In spite of what has been said in reference to Ministerial responsibility I would prefer to see the provision in the form in which it stands in the Bill adopted. To urge that the amendment is an improvement because it binds the Minister down to a certain position is absurd. To compel the Minister to adopt a certain course upon every possible occasion is very apt to interfere with the opportunities for developing Australia. I have heard no exception taken to the next paragraph, which provides that contract labour may be admitted when the contract is not made in contemplation of or with a view of affecting am industrial dispute. Paragraph b of clause 5 considerably tightens up the provisions of the existing Act. It provides that the Minister shall approve the terms of the contract only if, in his opinion - there is difficulty in the employer’s obtaining within the Commonwealth a worker of at least equal skill and ability.
The Minister is to have a sufficient knowledge of Australia and its industries to give effect to this provision.
– And he must be able to judge of the capabilities of a man of whom he has no previous knowledge.
– That is so. He is to be called upon in given cases to determine whether or not a certain man in Australia is equal in skill, and ability to a man abroad whom he has never seen, and whom it is proposed to introduce under contract. The employer must necessarily take care that he is bringing in a man of superior skill and ability ; there is no reason why he should do otherwise. But the Minister, without seeing either of the men, between whose capabilities a comparison must be made, is to determine this question. Is no consideration to be given to the character and habits of the men ? There are men of skill and ability who seldom obtain work, although they would have no difficulty in finding employment if they were of steady sober habits; and yet the Minister might say that one of these was equal in skill and ability to the contract immigrant, and the latter, together with the person responsible for his introduction, would be punished. I fail to see how the Minister could hope to make such a comparison.
– “The Minister,” inmost cases, will mean some officer in a distant part of the Commonwealth.
– Officers all over the Commonwealth may have to express an opinion on this question. The provision is made so explicit that it will be impossible to comply with it by a mere general consideration of the circumstances. A fact which is difficult, and, indeed’, impossible of ascertainment is to be determined by the Minister before a person under contract can enter Australia.
– Does not the honorable member think that a Chinese wall round Australia would be a good thing?
– Judging by the legislation they support, some honorable members apparently think that it would. The Minister is not merely to say whether, in his opinion, the law is being infringed ; he is definitely called upon in every case to make a comparison of skill. Not only will it be impossible to comply with this provision, but people outside Australia will conclude that our legislation is ridiculous, and that we do not wish to have a single immigrant while there is a man in Australia ready to take the work which would be allotted to him.
– This provision is not half as strict as is the American law.
– I shall show that it is entirely different from the law of the United States.
– It is not as good.
– That may be, but America does not exclude American citizens. When the Bill is taken into Committee, I shall give honorable members an opportunity of saying whether we shall allow our fellow-citizens to enter the Commonwealth.
– We do not exclude Australians.
– Some of those who came here as immigrants would shut out all immigration.
– That is sometimes the case. This provision will convey to people in the old world the impression that as long as we have in Australia a man who can do the work for which it is proposed to import labour under contract, that labour cannot be introduced.. Only when the impossible condition arises - the condition that there is not a man in a particular industry unemployed throughout
Australia - will immigration under contract be permitted.
– That is an unfair statement.
– That is the conclusion at which the people of England will arrive. I do not think that there is much objection to the provision that the Minister shall approve the terms of the contract only when in his opinion -
The remuneration and other terms and conditions of employment are as advantageous to the contract immigrant as those current for workers of the same class at the place where the contract is to be performed.
But our legislation is so extraordinary that it has actually been necessary to insert in a Bill brought before the Parliament of Australia a provision that fellowBritishers - the men who gave Australia to us - shall be allowed to land at an Australian port en route to their destination in Australia.
– Without having their contracts made void.
– This permission is to be given them, notwithstanding that they have committed the crime of entering into a contract for employment in the Commonwealth.
– Such a concession is not made in the United States.
– Then I hope that in that respect we shall not imitate America. As I have said before, the Americans do not prohibit American citizens.
– They have had 1,000,000 immigrants in one year.
– They have had even a greater number in previous years,so that they may with reason pass laws enabling a selection of immigrants to be made. If we had 1,000,000 immigrants coming here every year, it would be necessary for us to have more stringent provisions in this regard than we require when, as at present, we have practically none. The extraordinary provision to which I have just referred has had to be inserted in the Bill.
– And yet it does not satisfy the honorable member !
– The honorable member does not appear to be pleased with what I am saving. I am glad that we are prepared to be so generous as to give contract immigrants even this little liberty.
– I understand that the honorable member is going to vote against the Bill.
– The honorable member does not know what are my intentions. A great many of the objections which have been urged to-day to contract immigrants might be applied with equal force to immigrants not under contract. Those who do not come here under contract have not the same regard for the condition of the industry in which they are seeking employment as a contract immigrant, or the man responsible for his coming here, must necessarily have. A man who introduces a contract immigrant must feel that there is some necessity for bringing him here, since he advances his passage money, and is prepared to run the risk of entering into a contract to employ a man whom he does not know. There is no safeguard in the Bill against the overloading of an industry by immigrants who are not under contract ; and therefore the logical extension of the argument is against all immigration. If the only consideration is that of preventing the overloading of an industry, stronger objection should be taken to immigrants who come here free from any agreement than to those who are brought here under contract. The Minister has stated in the course of a brilliant speech that he favours immigration, and we know that immigration of any description must necessarily include a number of workers in different trades and callings. If immigration is going to overload our industries, why has he favoured it? I do not believe that the effect of a good stream of immigration would be to injure the workers of Australia.
– Nor does any one else.
– The honorable member has not heard some of the arguments that have been addressed to the House during this debate. A good stream of immigration would benefit Australia and the workers here.
– It would depend upon the class of immigrants.
– Decidedly. We certainly do not want undesirable immigrants.
– Is the honorable member aware that, even under the present Act, men have been brought from America to the coal-mining districts of New South Wales, although the coal-miners there are not working half-time?
– To bring down wages.
– I saw a statement as to the reasons for the introduction of the men. They are workers of certain machines.
– The Australians were working the machines in question before the Americans came here.
-I cannot speak of circumstances of which I do not know, but the statement which’ I read was that the employers considered it necessary to bring out these men to show the Australian workers how to properly run the machines.
– Australians had been working the machines for twelve months before the Americans arrived.
– Would the honorable member, if he were the owner of a coal mine, import a man from abroad - probably at a higher rate of wages than prevails in this country, if brought from America - to work a machine, if he had men in his own pit who, would do the work equally well ?
– What was done was done with the object of reducing wages, and had that result.
– I do not know the facts of the case, and will leave the honorable member to state them later on. I know only what I read in the press.
– A clean “knock-out.”
– I do not, like the honorable member for Gwydir, profess to know everything. When I am not aware of the facts of a case of my own knowledge, I say so.
– If the honorable member stated all the facts that he does not know, he would never finish talking.
– Therefore I do not try to state them. It is because the honorable member says so much about things of which he knows nothing that he finds it so difficult to put an end to his speeches, as we know by sad experience. Workers are likely to be imported under contract more for the development of new industries than for any other purpose, and it will not be to the advantage of this country if we pass legislation which will cause skilled artizans in other parts of the world to be unwilling to come here, because any contract into which they may enter for em ployment here may, on their arrival, be declared void. Even if skilled workmen are brought here under contracts stipulating for the payment of higher rates of wages than they were earning in their own land, and than prevail here, they may find, on reaching our shores, after having disturbed their family relationships and disposed of their homes and belongings, that the Minister has declared thecontracts void for no other reason than because he is of opinion that equally skilled men are to be found in Australia who are ready to fill the vacant positions. We complain of the press statements against Australia, and of the criticisms to whichour legislation is subjected - and I am of opinion that, while many of the statements which have appeared in English newspapers have been unjust, many others have been made spitefully, or are due to misconception - but surely, if we pass this Bill as it stands, newspaper writers cannot be blamed for pointing out that persons going to Australia under contract, even at higher rates of wages than prevail here, may discover when they arrive here that the Minister has annulled the contract on the ground that equally skilled men are available locally. It will be asked, too, what can any Minister know’ about the skill of artizans in any industry, and it might well be suggested that a Minister would favour citizens of Australia before others, in order to obtain votes.
– Does the honorable member think so little of Ministers as to believe that they would be influenced by considerations respecting a few paltry votes ?
– I do not refer to any particular Minister.
– Would the honorable member be so influenced?
– I am not going to consider my own case ; but the honorable member’s experience of parliamentary life must compel him to agree with me that there are Ministers and members who would be influenced in their decisions by considerations respecting votes, though I do not say that every Minister or every member would be so influenced. The American immigration restriction laws have been referred to ; but it must be remembered that Australia does not stand in the same position as America or other foreign countries. We are not an isolated country ; we are only one of the many dependencies of an Empire whose conditions vary greatly, although they are all under the same monarch. An isolated country can pass certain laws without injuriously affecting its own people, because none of them live beyond its borders ; but we must be very careful, lest our legislation affect our countrymen in other parts of the Empire more injuriously than it benefits us. I have been told by Americans that their immigration restriction laws do not exclude any American citizen. But we, in passing legislation of this kind, are dealing, not merely with foreigners, towards whom we have no responsibilities, and to whom we owe no duties, but with, amongst others, the 40,000,000 inhabitants of the United Kingdom. That country has always been generous to us. It has never passed legislation such as is now proposed affecting us ; it has given us our free institutions, and allows us to govern this country subject to very few restrictions.
– It also protects us.
– The Imperial Navy roams the seas, and is maintained at heavy cost to the people of Great Britain, for our protection as much as .for the protection of other parts of the Empire. Surely we ought’ to mete out different treatment to the generous people of the British Isles, who are our own countrymen, and have raised no barriers against us, from that which we would mete out to foreigners. When the Bill gets into Committee I shall endeavour to afford honorable members an opportunity to consider that point. I do not wish to encourage the importation of men into Australia at a time of industrial strife, nor do I wish men to be brought here under a misconception as to the rates of wages and conditions of labour prevailing in Australia. Restrictions against such immigration are in the interests of British immigrants themselves. I think, however, that the other restrictive provisions of the Bill should not be applied to our fellow-countrymen in Great Britain.
– The concluding remarks of the honorable member for North Sydney convince me that there is verv little difference of opinion amongst honorable members as to what should be tha objects of the Bill. He stated clearly and distinctly that he does not object^ to restrictions preventing men from being brought here under contract at a time of industrial dispute, or in contemplation of such a dispute, or under contract with a view to lowering the prevailing rates of wages. I am with him in those opinions, and I understood that that was the original intention of the provision in the Immigration Restriction Act which the Bill has been introduced to amend.
– That was the only intention stated at the time the provision in the Immigration Restriction Act was proposed.
– It seems strange to me that a Bill of twelve clauses should be required to make the necessary amendments of the present law, seeing that the provision which we seek to amend is contained in one paragraph. To my mind, it is the verbiage of the Bill which has caused the confusion of opinion which appears to exist amongst honorable members. No legislation of the Federal Parliament has had co much attention directed to it, both here, in the press, and on the platform, as the provision to which I refer. No doubt the misconception and misrepresentation which has prevailed concerning it may have injured Australia, but some honorable members have spoken as if they wished to convey the impression that this provision has been, the cause of reducing or stopping immigration to Australia. lt may have had some effect in that: direction during the last few years; but what was the trend of immigration for many years before it was placed on the statute-book ? I join issue with honorable members who, instead of attempting to discuss the merits of the proposal, direct their attention to matters entirely apart from it. If one cause more than another has operated to divert immigration from Australia during recent years, it. has been the action of our masters of finance. In 1880 they ruined our reputation as an honest community, and that, to my mind, was the first cause of the diversion of immigration, and the investment of capital, from Australia. That, however, has no bearing on the present position.
– Who are our masters of finance - does the honorable member mean the banks ?
– Yes. We suffered here as individuals and as a community, and investors abroad suffered. There is, no hope of our attracting any considerable number of immigrants, whether they be free or under contract, unless we can provide employment, for them and afford them an opportunity to make their homes here. I do not say that there is not an enormous field for the operations, of people who may come here. I venture to say that in no country in the world can an industrious citizen live under better conditions than in Australia. In no place can a larger proportion of the industrial population make homes, for themselves. If Australia is not as attractive, or employment is not as diversified, as it should be, those who have had the government in their hands, are responsible for it. I recognise that there is no material difference of opinion amongst honorable members upon the two main objects which it is sought to achieve. Every honorable member is prepared to oppose the introduction of labour at a time of industrial strife. The Bill should provide against that, and it is intended so to provide. Furthermore, no honorable member wishes to see labourers brought here under contract at wages lower than those prevailing in the industry in which they are to be employed. I am prepared to make provision against cases of that kind. I am not willing, however, to go any further. I am not content to allow any Minister, or officer appointed by him. to be the judge as to the qualifications of an employe.
– Who is going to judge as to the qualifications of the employe?
– I think that the man who finds the money to pay the employe should be the judge. I s.ee no objection to bringing into the Commonwealth wellordered and reputable men if employers are willing to pay them the rate of wages that prevails here.
– That would provide a good means for bringing down wages afterwards.
– It is all humbug to talk about bringing wages down. We cannot maintain for any length of time an artificial standard of wages.
– Does “the honorable member admit that contract labour would be introduced for the purpose of bringing down wages ?
– - No, I do not.
– The honorable member has not always talked like this.
– Yes, I have. In cases, where the products of our labour are brought into competition with the products of other countries in, the markets of the world, we cannot expect to maintain an artificial rate of wages for any length of time.
– What wages are now paid to men who are employed upon stations? Only 12s. per week.
– I have already stated that, according to my experience and humble judgment, no higher fates of wages than are paid here prevail in any country ; nor are the conditions of living better elsewhere than in Australia. To those honorable members who talk about paying 12s. per week to pastoral or farming employes, I say, as I have said before, that I am very sorry for the employers who engage labour at that rate.
– They do get labour at that wage.
– I am sorry for the employer who will put up with such labour, because, according to my experience, it is absolutely useless.
– Necessity often compels a man to accept less than that.
– I know that. I have had a little experience in that direction. I have had to work down to a fairly low level.
– I have had to accept 10s. per week. -
– The honorable member may have been lucky to get it, in the same way thai I have been. I trust that the Government will exercise a little common-sense - which is not unusual with them - when we deal with the Bill in Committee. I do not see that it is possible for me to vote against the motion for the second reading, because the Bill embodies two principles to which no honorable member is opposed. In matters of detail, however, the measure goes a little too far, and will tend to make us ridiculous as a community. There is no necessity for proceeding to that length if we’ can achieve our object by fair and above-board means. The honorable member for Grey asked me who was to be the judge as to the qualifications of a contract immigrant. According to clause 5, the Minister shall approve of the terms of the contract only if, in. his opinion, “there is a difficulty in the employer’s obtaining within the Commonwealth a worker of at least equal skill and ability.” That would reduce the whole thing to an absurdity. Surely the employer in Australia is a better judge as to what he requires in the shape of skilled labour or special labour of any kind than is the Minister or a Government official.
The Minister should, however, have power to insure that the labourer brought in under contract should receive the rate of wages current in the industry in which he is to engage.
– Could the honorable member indicate any industry in which an employer could not obtain the skilled labour he required without going abroad ?
– Yes. Within the last few years, if I could have introduced a good farm hand from outside, I should have been prepared to give him 5s. a week above the current rates of pay, and a three years’ contract.
– Then there is not a farmer in Australia who comes up to the honorable member’s ideals.
– There are numbers of farmers who come up to my ideals, but, as I have said before, the farming hand who will give attention to his business in the northern districts of Victoria will not remain a labourer for more than five years. The peculiar conditions that prevailed a few years ago deprived us of the cream of the men in the northern agricultural districts of Victoria. Some of them, unfortunately, went to South Africa, and others to New South Wales, and it became impossible to obtain a good all-round farming hand for love or money. It was not a question of wages, but men could not be induced” to apply themselves to the work. The conditions are the same to-day. It is of no use talking about 1 as. per week. No farmer in the districts of which I am speaking could obtain a farming hand for less than 25s. per week all the year round. A farm hand can obtain from ^65 to ^70 per annum, in addition to his keep, and if he knows his business, can be his own boss.
– Those must be rare cases.
– No; they are not rare. The conditions of which I speak extend all the way from Nagambie to the Murray, and even further north. Men who accept T2S. per week are, as a rule, very dear.
– That is all they get, whether they are good or bad.
– The details in clause 5. to which I have referred, aTe calculated to make our legislation ridiculous. When a. contract provides for the proper wages and conditions, it should not be challenged any further. The man who finds the money is the best judge as to what he requires. I am convinced that there is no great divergence of opinion amongst honorable members as to the object to be achieved. The difference exists only as to matters of detail. I have another objection to the Bill as it stands. It will often be found difficult to submit a contract for approval before the immigrant lands. I do not think it is fair that a man who comes from abroad should be stuck up through no fault of his own. but I am prepared to go as far as any one in the direction of penalising the employer who violates the law. The immigrant who is brought here should be allowed to land, and if the contract to which he is a party is not in accordance with the law, we should void the contract, and penalise the employer.
– We should not send the victim to goal.
– No. There is’ no reason why a man who comes here without a knowledge of our laws, should be fined or imprisoned. We should punish the man who does know the law, and wilfully breaks: it. There are one or two other details which, I think, can best be dealt with in Committee. I shall support the second reading of the Bill, with a view to amending it in some matters of detail which, if retained, will tend to make us ridiculous in the eyes of the world, and which can serve no useful purpose whatever. In conclusion, I do not share the opinions of those who urge that this particular class of legislation is responsible for the interruption of the flow of immigration to Australia.
– Upon one occasion I read a. very caustic criticism of an American public man, which ended with these words -
The object of his creation may some day become apparent.
I trust1 that, before this debate concludes, the object underlying the introduction of this Bill may become apparent. So far I have failed to fathom its depths in any shape or form. We have been assured that it is introduced for a particular purpose, name/y, to do away with a great deal of the misapprehension and misrepresentation which has resulted from the enactment of the section in the principal Act which this measure is designed to supersede. I contend that to-day the whole argument of honorable members opposite is altogether opposed to the position which they took up when the Immigration Restriction Bill was under consideration. Today the whole of their arguments have been in favour of protecting the men who are already in Australia; they exhibit no consideration whatever for those who may desire to come here from abroad. In this connexion I wish to direct attention to the remarks of some of the most prominent speakers when the original Bill was under discussion. The honorable member for Bland, who submitted the amendment upon which the contract provision was founded, said, as reported at page 5365 of Hansard, volume IV. -
The amendment will cover most of the classes of labour likely to be affected through people being inveigled into unfair agreements in ignorance of the conditions obtaining in Australia.
That amendment was not introduced with a view of protecting the Australian worker, but with the object of preventing persons being introduced under contract at less than the current rate of wages.
– That is what the honorable member for Bland says now.
– Later on the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne said -
I understand that very largely the intention of the amendment is to provide that men shall not be brought from outside the Commonwealth in order to aid a particular side in fighting a strike.
– That is one aspect of it.
– There is no desire to exclude men who voluntarily seek to make their home here for the purpose of engaging in manual labour or anything else, so long as they belong to a civilized white race, and are themselves desirable immigrants. As I understand it, we have never in Australia taken up that narrow view of saying that we must keep Australia for ourselves and our children.
– Oh, no.
– It is as well that that should be generally understood.
– It is the large landowners who prevent immigrants from coming to Australia.
– That may be the honorable member’s opinion, and, if so, he is welcome to it. That was the position taken up by those who discussed this measure on the 1st October, 1901. They held that protection should be extended to men who might be inveigled into coming to Australia under a false agreement. I have always held that the then Prime Minister read into the Act an intention which was entirely foreign to its purpose. The amendment which was carried read as follows : -
Provided that this paragraph shall not apply to workmen exempted by the Minister for special skill required in the Commonwealth.
The present Prime Minister, who was then Attorney-General, in submitting that amendment, said -
It is necessary to make provision to permit skilled labourers to enter the Commonwealth if they are of such a character as to be able to add to the industrial wealth of the community.
Reading these utterances together - although there may be some slight ambiguity in the language of the Statute itself - I hold that the intention of Parliament is clear. But when Sir Edmund Barton was confronted with the application of the six hatters for admission to the Commonwealth, he took a totally different view of the way that section should be applied. I challenged him upon the point upon the 27th May, 1903, in speaking upon the AddressinReply. Upon that occasion I said -
The Prime Minister read into the provision another intention - the intention to protect men already here.
To which he replied -
Only so far as the words “required in the Commonwealth “ necessitated an interpretation.
At this stage the honorable and learned member for Ballarat interjected -
One must regard the conditions of the Commonwealth in order to discover what is required in it.
I then went on to say -
Such an inquiry to be of any use, would have to be most exhaustive. The Prime Minister required an affidavit.
In speaking upon the proposal which was inserted in the principal Act, the honorable member for North Sydney alluded to the trouble which’ a Minister would experience if he were required to institute a search through the Commonwealth, with a view to ascertaining whether certain skilled labourers were required. I foresaw that difficulty at the time, but the Prime Minister of the day did not. The matter was as easy to him as falling off a log. He required an affidavit. I would like to inform honorable members how he came to arrive at that conclusion. In speaking upon this matter at Hobart, on 14th February, he is reported to have said -
He would explain the circumstances connected with the six hatters. The law which he was charged to administer said that he must satisfy himself that the persons who came to Australia under contract were only to be admitted if they possessed the skill that was required in the Commonwealth. It was the duty of the gentleman into whose employment the immigrants were going to satisfy him by affidavit or otherwise on that point.
WhenI quoted the foregoing, during the debate upon the Address-in-Reply, in 1903, Sir Edmund Barton interjected - “ Affidavit or otherwise.” What I received were statutory declarations which are not sworn.
He was satisfied to rest the determination of the question of whether skilled labour was required in the Commonwealth upon the simple statutory declaration of the employer. I say that, in requiring any such so-called proof, he wrongly interpreted the Act. The view taken by the present Prime Minister - that the amendment was necessary to permit skilled labourers to enter the Commonwealth if they were of such a character as would add to the industrialwealth of the community - was the correct one. The six hatters were detained on board ship in Sydney whilst certain affidavits or declarations were being obtained, and thus the whole of the difficulty was created.
– If the matter be left to the employer who engages men abroad, he is bound to say that he requires them.
- Sir Edmund Barton, who was Prime Minister at the time, based his decision upon a declaration which was not sworn, which was not, in my opinion, required by the Act, and which, in any case, was valueless, and thus the whole trouble arose. I am quite satisfied with the first part of sub-clause 2 of clause 5 of the Bill. But I object to paragraph b of that provision, which reads -
The Minister shall approve the terms of the contract only -
If in his opinion -
There is difficulty in the employer’s ob taining within the Commonwealth a worker of at least equal skill and ability.
If nobody else moves in that direction. I shall endeavour, in Committee, to have that provision excised. I am perfectly satisfied with the proposal that the contract shall stipulate that the wages payable to any labourer imported shall be those current in the Commonwealth, and that immigrants shall not be introduced during the progress of a strike. I contend that we have got away from the original conditions under which the contract provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act were proposed. I do not suggest that the Labour Party are entirely responsible for that, although I am aware that some pressure was brought to bear by them in connexion with the six hatters’ incident. Some time ago, I appealed to the members of that party to assist in securing an alteration of the existing law, but I obtained no reply from them. There was, however, a reply from the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. When I suggested that the Government should amend that legislation, he interjected -
They will not. They are not game.
That indicates the source from which the opposition to the abolition of those sections of the Immigration Restriction Act, which are working so much harm to Australia, comes. We have done more than protect the workman who comes to Australia under contract - we have endeavoured to protect the men who are already here. We have attempted to reserve Australia for the Australians by cramping our industries, and by generally bringing about a set of conditions which is favoured by only one party in this House. I hope that the Prime Minister will submit some proposal which will have the effect of removing the misapprehension which exists in the old country in regard to our immigration legislation. There is no doubt that a great deal of the trouble which we experience is the result of misapprehension. But who is responsible for that misapprehension? Undoubtedly we are, judged by the way in which we have been doing things.
– The honorable member is responsible if he misinterprets interjections.
– Does the honorable member admit that he made the interjection to which I have referred?
– Unquestionably. I will, however, explain it.
– It is quite possible that the honorable member may have had something else in his mind at the time. I contend that when the principal Act was under discussion, the intention of Parliament was merely to protect contract labourers coming to Australia - not to protect the workmen who are already here.
– Surely both were intended.
– I should not protect the workers already here by excluding others who come out under contract to labour under fair conditions.
– If they come out under fair conditions they ‘ought not-‘ to be excluded.
– The six hatters came here under union conditions. During the debate the honorable member for Darling interjected that some of those hatters were in favour of this Bill. It is only reasonable to assume that they are. They have been allowed to land, and do not desire others to come in. I wish to show how impressions formed as to the scope of the law create a greater disturbance in the minda of the people at home than would a knowledge of the absolute facts. Honorable members will recollect the case of the groom who came out from Suffolk with horses for Burra, New South Wales. Those horses were imported by an intimate friend of my own, and when I read of the case it struck me that there was no reason why the groom should not remain in the Commonwealth after completing his contract. I therefore wrote to my friend, pointing out that if he went outside the territorial limits and came in again, free from any contract to labour, no one could prevent his landing. My friend replied in a letter which I wish t!o place before the House, as an indication of the impressions that are formed of our law. The Prime Minister stated that the groom need not have obtained a permit to land, but my friend, in what I am sure honorable members will regard as a very temper/ate letter, discussed the question as follows: -
As to that groom of ours who came out in charge of some Suffolk Punch horses for Burra, I hardly know what his position would be if, having fulfilled his mission, he had simply gone outside the territorial limit, and then returned to Australia, instead of clearing out of the country for good, in accordance with the conditions of the permit given to him from the Agent-General’s office in London. With our many strange new laws, no one knows where he is now-a-days. I see that Deakin has been trying to gloze the matter over, and saying that it was quite unnecessary for the man to obtain a permit, and that there was merely some stupid officiousness on the part of the Shipping Agents in asking for one. That is all very well for Mr. Deakin : but the fact remains, that if that groom (being under, an engagement with us to accompany those horses and attend to them until they were delivered at Burra) had come without that permit, he would have done so at the risk of being arrested on landing as a prohibited immigrant. Also Dalgety’s people, who are agents for the ship, would have been liable to be fined £100 for allowing him to land ; and, even as it is, I understand that they are liable to a- similar fine if they fail to see that he leaves the country within the time specified in the permit. As it is, he returns to England on 9th instant, by one of the
White Star ships, and we have to pay his passage. Possibly, if he so desired, and cared to take the risk, he might dodge the law, as you suggest, by going out a few miles to sea, and returning not under contract to any one : but what of the insane laws which make such a course necessary?
– There are several absolute misapprehensions in that letter.
– There may be; but they are not misapprehensions for which the writer can be held responsible.
– I do not think that there are any misapprehensions.
– I understand that some difficulty arose at home in regard to action taken by the Prime Minister. This groom has now returned to England, feeling very much like a man who has been on a ticketof leave, and he will doubtless spread among his friends the news of how he was. treated. We ought to do something to remove all cause for misapprehension. The honorable member for Moira has said that, in his opinion, all that; we require to do is to pass two clauses, one providing that contract labour shall not be admitted during a time of strike, and the other that contract immigrants shall not be admitted unless their agreement provides for the payment of current rates of vage3 and the observance of fair conditions of labour. The honorable member for Grey has assented to that proposal, and I think that it would” be a very simple way of arriving at a satisfactory settlement of the question.
– But I do not desire to see the House pass slip-shod provisions through which it would be possible to drive a coach and four.
– There is no reason why the provisions suggested should be so framed. It will be absolutely impossible for the Minister to determine whether or not the skilled labour proposed at any time to be imported can be obtained within the Commonwealth. I trust that this will be a growing community, and as we expand we shall require additional labour from year to year. That honorable members should be afraid of the introduction of labour is, to say the least, ridiculous. In a new country like this an influx of labour from abroad must give more employment. We are told that money begets money, and it cannot be denied that labour begets labour. Is it reasonable to expect capitalists to enter upon large enterprises, unless they are satisfied that the necessary labour will be forthcoming? If the workers were to consult their own interests they would go to men of means, and say : “If you are prepared to enter upon such and such an industry, we shall be ready to work for you at the outset for a moderate wage.”
– Does the honorable member suggest that the workers should go to such men and implore them to introduce labour from abroad?
– In Victoria, many a man has gone to an employer and offered his services at a very small wage, with the result that he has been engaged, and has proved himself so capable that his services have been retained for years at a greatly enhanced wage.
– And others have been kept on for years at the same low wage.
– My experience is similar to that of the honorable member for Moira. I do not think that any lad in my employment is receiving less than 10s. per week, and my ploughmen receive j£i per week and rations. At harvest time every man on my property receives the usual wages for harvesting.
– That is the universal practice.
– That is so. It is absurd for some honorable members from the other States to talk as they do about the payment of low wages in Victoria. 1 do not know where they get to when they cross the border. They seem to find their way into some obscure district, where the conditions are totally different from those prevailing in the rest of Victoria.
– Before the shearers organized, sheep were shorn in Victoria for 10s. per 100.
– That is true; and I have known men to make good wages at that rate. It all depends upon the “cut.” The point which I wish to impress upon the House is that most honorable members appear to think that all that is necessary is to prohibit the introduction of labour during a strike or under unfair conditions, and that it would be well to confine the Bill to such provisions. The Opposition have been from the first favourable to such a proposal, and I think that the House should, as far as possible;, set aside all extraneous matter, and make the Bill so clear and simple that it will be impossible for any one to misapprehend it. It seems to me that the original Act is more satisfactory, inasmuch as it is proposed in this Bill to lay down a hard and fast line as to the interpretation of the law - an interpretation which I felt at the outset was wrong, and which I am more convinced than ever, now that I see it in black and white, is objectionable. I am certainly disappointed with this Bill, for I was under the impression that we were going to secure a great deal more than is offered to us. The Prime Minister .promised m> bread, but has given us a stone. I see no real value in the Bill, but shall vote for its second reading in the hope that in Committee we shall, be permitted to substantially amend it. The Opposition are so overwhelmed by the numbers of the Government supporters that they can do no more than ask for permission to amend the Bill, and plead with the Ministry to do something within reason.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).This Bill has been introduced because of the various statements made from time to time as to the selfish immigration policy adopted by Australia. The intention of the Prime Minister was, I believe, to relax the conditions relating to immigration, and so to remove the cause of the complaints that have been made. But that will not be the effect of the Bill. It has been said that slanders on Australia have been based on al misrepresentation of the real facts by honorable members on this side of the House who wish to defame the Commonwealth. Such an assertion is absolutely incorrect. Every statement we have made in this regard is true.
– Hundreds of untrue statements have been made regarding the Immigration Restriction Act.
– The statements made by the Opposition in regard to the six hatters, the groom to whom” reference has been made by the honorable member for Grampians, and the six potters; are absolutely true, although the “conclusion which the English people have formed from those statements may be erroneous. The Minister has said that there is no necessity for men coming here under contract to obtain permits before leaving the old country or elsewhere. But what are the facts? No contract immigrant can land without having a certificate, signed by the Minister, as to his special skill and ability. That being so, when people enter into arrangements abroad for the introduction of labour into Australia they find iti necessary, before the men leave the port of shipment, to secure a permit, or some authority, for them to land. Shipmasters are liable to be heavily fined for introducing prohibited immigrants, and they naturally refuse to take contract immigrants as passengers unless they have a definite assurance that the men will be allowed to land. That being so, the employers concerned go to the Agent-General for a certificate, and it is very naturally supplied. We are told that the desire of many employers is to introduce workers to take the place of those already here. That may be the opinion of some honorable members, who take a very narrow view of this question, and believe that every addition to the ranks of the workers in Australia must necessarily reduce the field of employment here; but immigrants not only find employment for themselves; they also give employment for others. Let us look for a moment at the position of the six potters, and the attempt made by the honorable and learned member for West Sydney, then Minister of External Affairs, to initiate prosecutions against the employer for landing them without a special permit. He wished to prosecute the employer because some of the potters so introduced displaced other men. It appears that there were three for whom work could not be found when they arrived. The Minister, after interviewing the men, was prepared to condone the offence, if it were an offence, conditionally on the employers in question promising to find work for the men in some other direction. They said, “We do not want them at present, but later on we shall be able to give them employment.” Those men were not brought here to lower the rates of wages. They were skilled artisans, and there were no others in the Commonwealth who possessed the same degree of skill. But if this Bill had been in force then, the gentleman who imported these six potters would have been fined heavily for doing so, because pressure would have been brought to bear upon the Minister of the day lo declare, since there were other potters in. the country, that there was already sufficient skilled labour available. This gentleman had for many years been trying to successfully establish a pottery, but he could not do so with the labour available here. He imported a manager from one of the best potteries in the old country, who, when he came out, said at once that he must have power to remodel the works, and to engage other men. He was given that power, and he carried out his alterations, and imported the six potters and an engraver. He told me that there were other engravers in the Commonwealth, but that they were not the kind of men he wanted. He said that they could not engrave the designs which he wished to ha,ve engraved in the manner in which he wished the work to be done. He wanted a potter’s engraver. But had the Bill been in force then, the Minister of the day would probably have prevented that engraver from landing, and would have punished those responsible for bringing him here. The members of the Labour Party term themselves the friends of labour, and vet they would punish those who are trying to establish new industries for the benefit of the community at large. The six potters who were imported are what are known in the trade as “placers,” their special work being to place pottery in the ovens. Being experts and up to date, they know exactly what heat each article requires, and where it should go, having regard to its colours and other considerations. Their special knowledge and skill’ enables them to put twice as much in one oven as the old employes could put into it, and thus they get twice as much work done for the fuel consumed, and lessen other expenses, at the same time producing a larger quantity of first-class pottery. Would any Minister know all the technical difficulties of the pottery business, and be able to judge of the skill of the men available for any position that might be vacant? Would a Minister have the technical knowledge necessary to enable him to judge of the skill of persons in other industries? Yet the Bill gives the Minister of the day power to say who shall and who shall not be admitted to the Commonwealth as a skilled expert’. Honorable members are unanimously of opinion that persons should not be brought to Australia to interfere in any strike, either in contemplation or in existence. I do not think any one desires that men shall be brought here to fight the battle of the employers against the employes. I know that I would oppose such action with all my strength. We are also agreed that men should not be brought here under contract at rates of remuneration and under terms of employment inferior to those prevailing in the places where their work ig to be done. But it would be much better to make the Bill absolute in its prohibition of such immigration than to leave the admission or the exclusion of the immigrants at the discretion of the Minister. If the Bill stopped at those two prohibitions it could be passed in a> very short space of time. We are occasionally told that all these contracts are made from Australia, but I have one in my mind that, was made in England. In that case the man was selected in England, and sent out to a factory in Melbourne. As the gentleman who sent him out said in a letter to his manager here, “We did not pick the worst man we could find, but the best.” That man knew beforehand the terms on which he would be employed. His passage out was paid, and he received a certain allowance on board ship, while on arrival here he was paid the rates of wages obtaining here. Was any wrong done in that case? Has the community suffered by his importation? Is it not better that men should come here with employment guaranteed to them, at good rates of wages, and under proper conditions, than that they should come here on the chance of finding work to do? Would it not be better if, instead of setting our faces against the contract system, we encouraged it? The grandiloquent statements of the Prime Minister seem to me mere bathos, having regard to the legislation which he has introduced. He spoke about this great empty continent, which it is necessary to fill with white people of our own race,, so that we may be able to stand against the world, and then he introduces legislation which is equivalent to hanging up the sign, “ No Briton need apply.” If it! is our desire to keep this great continent for ourselves - for the few men and women who are here already - let us say so straightforwardly. When an honorable member on this side was showing that Great Britain places no restrictions upon the immigration of persons from Australia, the honorable member for Hindmarsh interjected, “ Yet there are 12.000,000 there within the starvation line.” or words to that effect. I doubt the correctness of his figures. If there were so many unemployed in Great Britain, that country would have good reason for saying, “ We do not require any more people here. ‘ ‘ If Great Britain, with her 40,000,000 of people, many of whom cannot obtain the bare necessaries of life, were to decide that immigration must be stopped, there would be some reason for such action. But there is no justification for our adopting a similar attitude. If it be intended to prohibit the introduction of British people into our midst, why should we not honestly stand up and say: “No Britons need apply”? We want population, and we must offer special inducements to immigrants, in order to divert the stream that is now flowing to other countries which are nearer to Europe, and which offer greater attractions.
– If we depend upon getting immigrants under contract, it will be a long time before our population is increased.
– No attempt should be made to prevent the influx of population, whether under contract or otherwise.
– The honorable member knows that we are prevented by the land monopoly which exists in all the States from offering inducements to immigrants.
– And yet members of the Labour Party are blocking all attempts at reform. Some reference has been made to the introduction of skilled labour into some of the Newcastle mines. Now what are the facts? I am told - I do not say that everything I hear is true - that, owing to the constant friction between the em-‘ plovers and the miners in the Newcastle district, it was resolved to introduce coalgetting machines. After the machines had been worked for some little time,, the employers were dissatisfied with the results, and they introduced four or five American miners, who were used to working such machines.
– Under contract?
– I presume so. I believe, further, that the wages paid to the imported miners were much higher than those prevailing in the Newcastle district. I am informed that one of these American miners could cut with a machine 100 tons of coal a day, whereas the local men could not hew more than 40 or 50 tons per day.
– Were they working on the same seam?
– I understand so. The honorable member for Newcastle told me to-day that the American miners had not been called upon to work under conditions similar to those with which the local men had had to contend. He informed me that the imported men were set to work in a dry place, and in the daytime, whereas the others were required to work in a wet place, and at night. The Americans were, of course, thoroughly used1 to the machines, and were, no doubt, thoroughly expert men. It stands to reason, therefore,, that even under equal conditions they would outdistance the local men of only small experi- ence. I do not say one word in disparagement of Australian workers. I am an Australian myself, and I believe that Australians are as good as any men in the world’. But we must all recognise that thoroughly skilled workers, such as these Americans, would have an immense advantage over local miners, accustomed to entirely different conditions of working. We must look to the older countries for instruction in the latest methods of carrying on our industries. The keen competition in the more densely-populated countries of the world impels those who are engaged in industry to avail themselves of the very latest improvements in mechanical appliances, in order to increase production. And we should offer every encouragement to employers to introduce skilled men as instructors to our own workmen. I contend that the Minister is not the person who should be called upon to decide what class of labour is required in an industry. It would be sufficient for us to provide that any person coming here under contract shall not be introduced in connexion with any industrial dispute, or at rates of wages lower than those prevailing in the industry in which he is to be employed. I do not think that any hampering conditions should be imposed upon employers who desire to introduce contract labour, and I shall endeavour to amend the Bill in Committee by omitting paragraph b of sub-clause 2, and sub-clauses 3 and 4 of clause 5. I shall also endeavour to insert an additional paragraph in sub-clause 2 of clause 6, to the following effect: -
Where an employer proves that a contract does not violate the provisions of paragraphs a and c ofsub-section 2 of section 5.
The effect of that would be that if an employer should bring out a contract labourer, and the man should land here before the contract was submitted to the Minister, no punishment would follow if he could prove that the contract was not in violation of the two provisions to which I have referred. These relate to the introduction of labour in contemplation of, or with a view to, affecting an industrial dispute, or at rates of remuneration and on other terms and conditions less advantageous than those current for workers in the same class within the Commonwealth. We should, as far as possible, remove all unnecessary restrictions. We should not legislate merely for the workmen who are here to-day. Surely, when we recollect that in the old country there are many men close on the border-line of poverty, we should have heart enough to afford them the fullest opportunity to come to this land, which, bad as some persons may think it, still presents opportunities for men to improve their condition. I shall oppose many of the provisions of the Bill, because I think that they are utterly useless, and that they will not in any way tend to better the condition of the masses. If our workers are wanting employment, we must provide it for them by legislation very different from that which, so far, has received the support of the Labour Party. Right through the piece their efforts have been directed to imposing restrictions upon industry, instead of widening the avenues of employment. Every step they have taken has made it harder, instead of easier, for men to obtain employment, and has brought about worse, instead of better, conditions for the workers.
– The honorable member, as usual, could not refrain from having a tilt at the Labour Party. He says that all the legislation they have advocated has been of a restrictive character, and that they have done nothing to bring about better conditions for the worker. I presume that the honorable member means to convey that they have not attempted to deal with the land question. I would ask him what support he expects any proposition in that direction to receive from the members of the Opposition. The honorable member and his political associates are doing the best they can to make it impossible for people to settle on the land. What has brought about the interruption which we are experiencing in the flow of population to our shores ? Honorable members will recollect that it is only a few years since we passed through a great financial crisis, which produced a stagnation in business that is without parallel in this country. Bank after bank closed its doors, and the people’s money was locked up in them. That result was not due to the action of the Labour Party, or to legislation of this character ; but, nevertheless, it did a great deal to shake the confidence in Australia of people resident in the old world. To-day a state of things exists upon this Continent which, I venture to say, is not a healthy one. In all our great cities we have a congested population, which is quite out of proportion to the number of persons settled on our lands. Everybody recognises that if the country is to progress, there must be settlement in our rural areas proportionate to that which obtains in the cities. But what is the position ? We have millions and millions of acres which are absolutely locked up. It would be a criminal act on my part to advocate encouraging the immigration of artisans and agricultural labourers to Australia under existing conditions. Why are honorable members afraid to confess that at present we have more artisans than we ought to have relatively to the number who are engaged in our primary industries? Every time that a land board sits in these States, it has to deal with the applications of from thirty to a hundred individuals for a single block of land. What was the position in New Zealand a few years ago? Under the administration of Sir Julius Vogel, in the early eighties, greater stagnation existed there than we are experiencing to-day. Prior to the Ballance Government assuming the reins of power, it was necessary to establish charitable institutions throughout that Colony. But what has happened since? We have witnessed a remarkable growth’ of population owing to the spread of closer settlement. If we are to judge by the elections which have just taken place there, the people of New Zealand are not yet satisfied with the progress that they have made. Only to-day we learned that the Opposition, who condemned the legislation enacted by Mr. Seddon, have been practically annihilated. If I had a brother in England to-day who had been reared upon a farm, and he asked me what chance he would have of acquiring a block of Crown land in Australia, what answer could I return him ?
– There is plenty of land available in Western Australia.
– That is only one State out of six.
– Queensland is doing a great deal in that direction.
– It is quite recently that Queensland took action to bring about closer settlement, and even then she had to re-purchase land for the purpose. Until the States take up this question in real earnest, it is idle for honorable members to talk about securing an increase of population by amending the contract labour sections of the Immigration Restriction Act. I claim that not a single case can be cited in which desirable immigrants have been excluded under that statute. I do know, however, that the Act has been used by absentees who have made their fortunes here to discredit Australia in every possible way. Although I believe that there is no necessity for the introduction of this Bill, I am quite willing to assist in removing the objections upon which the traducers of our country have built up their cases.
– What traducers - the Agents-General ?
– Members of the Opposition have traduced Australia for political purposes. Yesterday I interjected that the right honorable member for East Sydney, if he had the power, would wipe out this legislation and sacrifice our ideal of a. White Australia. I made that statement upon the authority of the public press. If he really believes that the Immigration Restriction Act is a menace to our prosperity, he ought to have sought to amend it when he was in office. He distinctly stated that one of the first measures that lie would endeavour to pass would be a Bill for that purpose. Why ? Simply because he is embittered towards the labour members.
– Not at all.
– There was a time when he was prepared to introduce restrictive legislation for the purpose of satisfying the labour corner.
– He has done more for a White Australia than all the members of the labour corner put together.
– For the past six months he has done more than any other man to assist those who are traducing Australia. It is only quite recently that honorable members opposite have begun to deprecate the policy of crying “ stinking fish.” If they do not want more than they have indicated, what objection can they entertain to this Bill ? Do they desire men to be brought to Australia during the progress of industrial disturbances ?
– I tried to tell the honorable member what I wanted this morning, but he was not present.
– I take it for granted that the honorable member does not desire men to be imported during the progress of industrial disputes or at a lower rate of wages than that current in the Commonwealth.
– I want no man to come here who will do anything to break down our industrial conditions.
– Only yesterday the honorable member said that he was in favour of “ the open door.”
– I advocate the “ open door “ still, but not in the sense that the honorable member wishes to attach to those words.
– It has been said that the practice of importing men under contract has not been abused in Australia. I can recollect a case in Tasmania in which 300 men were introduced under agreement by a railway contractor, at the munificent wage of 3s. 6d. a day.
– How long ago was that?
– It was a good many years ago, but what was possible then is possible now.
– What was the name of the company ?
– I cannot recall it, but I know that these men were introduced to work as navvies at 3s. 6d. per day, when the ruling rate was from 7s. to 8s. per day. If we concede the demands of the Opposition, we shall have a repetition of that sort of thing. Honorable members opposite do not think it right that the Minister should be called upon to determine whether in any given case a worker of at least equal skill and ability to that of the man sought to be introduced under contract, cannot be obtained in the Commonwealth. I venture to say that there are any number of men in other parts of the world who would readily sign a contract to work as navvies at 3s. 6d. per day.
– At the time to which the honorable member refers, was not the Tasmanian Government paying the passage money of all immigrants?
– I cannot say, but the honorable member will not deny my statement.
– The honorable member’s statement as to the rate of pay is wrong.
– The honorable member will have an opportunity to show what was the rate of pay.
– I do not think any men would work as navvies for 3s. 6d. per day.
– Some honorable members have doubted the statement made today, that many men working on stations receive only 12s. 6d. per week. I know of married couples working on large stations who receive only 22s. 6d. per week, and who have to find themselves. They have also practically to provide for travellers. Whilst the Minister may experience some difficulty in determining whether the skilled labour proposed to be imported at any time cannot be obtained within the Commonwealth, the suggestion that the employer bringing out these men, should have the right to determine the question, is certainly an extreme one. The position would not be improved by the adoption of that suggestion. I take it that the Minister, whoever he may be, administering the Act, will endeavour to honestly carry out its provisions. Having no axe of his own to grind, he will try to do justice to contract labourers sought to be introduced for a special class of work. It cannot be said that the Minister would have any vested interests to consider, but I think that every man seeking to introduce contract labour would declare that he could not obtain such labour within the Commonwealth.
– Why should he do so?
– Because he would have incurred the expense of bringing out the men.
– Would he not make inquiries before entering info a contract with them ?
– The class of men of whom we are in need are agriculturists. We do not Wish to increase the number of city dwellers ; we are in want of immigrants who will be able to settle on and work the land. The trouble is that at the present time suitable land is not available for them. If honorable members opposite would throw as much energy into an effort to break up the large estates as they displayed in connexion with the attack on the union label clauses of the Trade Marks Bill they would do a good work.
– Is it within thepower of the Commonwealth Parliament to break up the large estates ?
– Unfortunately, it is not ; but it is open to honorable members to do a great deal of propaganda work. There are many honorable members opposite who are not in favour of breaking upthe large estates,and thus enabling us to offer land to suitable immigrants. It is idle to say that this Bill will either restrict or increase immigration. We have been told to-day that last year over 1,000,000 immigrants landed in the United States. And yet we know that there is a very stringent Immigration Restriction Act in operation there - an Act under which a man may be sent to gaol for some months for introducing contract labour.
– But America does not shut out its own citizens.
Mr.POYNTON. - She excludes every one outside the Federation.
– Even theFrench Canadians are excluded.
– That is so. Notwithstanding this stringent law, the United States,, in one year, has increased its population by means of immigration to the extent of 1,000,000. How has it been able to do this ? Because it has land available for immigrants. What is the reason for the large influx of immigrants to Canada? Because every man going there can obtain a grant of 160 acres, and an additional area at a moderate rate. But, with the exception of Western Australia - and even there there is a lot of land unsuitable for settlement - not one of the Australian States has land available for immigrants. The best land in Australia is locked up.
– There is plenty of good land in Western Australia.
– That was the plea put forward in the Legislative Council of South Australia. When any proposal is made to break up the large estates in that State, the members of the Legislative Council point to Pinarroo, and a number of other places where there is poor land available.
– But we have first-class land available in Western Australia.
– I admit that; but, unfortunately, the best land there would cost a good deal to open up, so that poor people could not be settled upon it. Nearly all the open areas suitable for the settlement of immigrants have been taken up in large holdings, which are not contributing to the railway revenue or to the wants of population to the extent that they ought to do. Until our large estates are thrown open for settlement, it is absurd to say that a Bill of this kind will lead to any increase of immigration worthy of notice. I shall support the second reading of the Bill, not because I think it necessary, but because it will rid us of the objections that have been raised to the Immigration Restriction Act. It is singular, however, that the moment the Government propose to remove the cause of those objections, fresh complaints are made. It seems to me that some honorable members opposite regret that the Bill has been introduced. As long as the original Act remains in force they have something upon which to base their argument that desirable immigrants are being kept out of the Commonwealth, although, in my opinion, there is absolutely no justification for that contention. Now that it is proposed to amend that Act, it is said that this Bill does not go far enough. In that respect, the Opposition are showing their hand. The honorable member for Kooyong, for instance, does not believe in restrictive legislation. No employers do. Most of them would like to see four men available for every billet offering. We are told that they would not think of introducing labour merely for the purpose of displacing men on strike, or causing industrial disputes. But we know that they would soon create trouble. The moment there was a large influx of labourers into Australia wages would come down. That is the object of the opponents of the Act.
– That is not correct.
– It is absurd to say that honorable members opposite are merely actuated by a desire to see our population increased.
– This Bill will not lead to increased immigration.
Mr. POYNTON. The honorable member thinks that immigration should be absolutely unrestricted. The school to which he belongs would have black labour to develop Northern Australia, and they would have cheap labour of all kinds for the development of the tropical parts of the Continent; but they would not assist us to break up some of the large holdings in other parts of Australia in order that they might be developed. I feel that there is nothing in the original Act to which ob jection can reasonably be taken, but I am prepared to vote for this Bill to gratify the wishes of the Opposition. As a matter of fact, I believe the Bill is unnecessary, and that the original Act has not kept one desirable immigrant out of Australia. If it be true that Australia has an evil reputation, it is not legislation of this kind that is responsible for it. Now that the objections which honorable members raised a month or two ago have been removed, they raise fresh objections. I shall support the Bill.
– Will the honorable member support a Bill which he believes to be quite unnecessary ?
– I do it to please honorable members opposite. I do not consider the Bill necessary, but I shall support it in order to take the wind out of the sails of honorable members, so that they can no longersay that our restrictive legislation is preventing people from coming to Australia. It is a pretence to say that our present legislation is keeping people out of Australia. The Bill does what the leader of the Opposition and his followers have said should be clone.
– Not at all.
– I think that it does, but I do not think that the passing of it will have any effect upon the immigration to this country.
– It is not my intention to vote against the second reading of the Bill, because I entertain the hope that we may induce the Prime Minister to make one or two amendments in Committee which will improve it. I think that had he been content to introduce a measure merely amending the present law the effect abroad would be more satisfactory than the effect of his proposed legislation, which, I am afraid, will rather accentuate many of the objections to the existing law. It is difficult to see how its provisions ameliorate the present restrictions. I hold the view that the provision in the Immigration Restriction Act which it is desired to amend has operated against the interests of the Commonwealth. Since it was passed I have twice visited England, where I had an opportunity to meet a large number of persons, and no subject is more frequently alluded to there than the trouble which arose here in connexion with the importation of the famous six hatters. At the same time, I wish to add, what! I have said before, that the occurrence was greatly exaggerated at home, though that fact in itself should show us how necessary it is to be extremely careful when dealing with legislation likely to be adversely criticised abroad. I have a very clear recollection of what took place when the provision under which that action was taken was introduced. Speaking upon it I said -
The amendment, as I read it, is intended particularly to apply to the possibility of there being industrial disputes within the Commonwealth, and the introduction here of men intended to subvert the claims which are made by those engaged in such disputes. I have been consistently opposed to the introduction of any labour for that purpose. I think that if there are any disputes in Australia we should be prepared to fight them out within our own grounds, and upon the conditions which apply within the limits of the Commonwealth, without introducing other people to create further trouble. But I have had knowledge of the necessity of introducing numbers of men for particular industries, because they have had special training and experience.
– That is provided for.
– It is provided for in the amendment which is now proposed, but in that which I saw earlier in the day I do not think it was provided, and we are now hereintroducing into a Bill which proposes to deal entirely with immigration, the question of a minimum wage ; because it says that these persons shall not be introduced unless it is prescribed that they shall have a certain wage. I think it is desirable that every man should receive a just and proper wage.
Those are the opinions which I expressed in1901, and which I hold to-day. At the time I had a conversation with the honorable member for Bland, and with the Prime Minister, who was then Attorney-General, in regard to the probable effect of this provision, and I know that the impression in the minds of honorable members generally was that it was intended merely to prevent labour from being brought to Australia to interfere with existing conditions. The administration of that provision has gone far beyond the intention of its original supporters. I do not think that any honorable member even imagined that it would be applied as it has been.. Since then my experience has shown me more frequently than before the need of skilled workmen in Australia. Recently, in connexion with the starting of a large woollen mill in Melbourne, it was necessary to bring five men from Bradford, and, although I experienced no difficulty in obtaining a permit for their coming here, it seemed to me strange that we should have to apply to the Government for anything of the kind. Suitable men possessing the necessary experience and knowledge could not then be obtained in Australia.
– The honorable member had no difficulty in obtaining permission to bring out these experts ?
– But it touched his dignity to have to do so.
– It made us an absolute laughing-stock in Bradford.
– Did Bradford really know anything about it?
– Yes. The woollen people there ridiculed the idea that, before capable and competent men, whose services were urgently needed for the establishment of an important industry on the banks of the Yarra, could be brought out here to a British Possession, formal permission should have to be obtained to allow them, to land. In another case it was necessary to bring out an American for some works at: Spottiswoode. He was required to construct large leaden reservoirs;, for manufacturing sulphuric acid, to see that they were properly sealed up. When, on arrival, he was asked to sign certain papers,. he said to me, “ Do I understand that, if I had come from Great Britain instead of from America, I could not have entered this country without a formal permission from the Government?”
– He evidently did not understand the American law.
– He knew that had he, an American subject, gone out to the Philippine^,’ or to any other American possession, he would not have been prevented from landing because he was under contract.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that there was no one in Australia capable of soldering up those tanks for him ?
– No, there was not.
– That’s rubbish !
– The honorable member is displaying his utter ignorance of the subject. It is lamentable that immigration into Australia should have ceased for some years past. I find, by reference to the Victorian Year-Book, 1904, that -
Immigration from outside of Australia to the Australian States ceased about the year 1891, and since that time we have had to depend solely upon the excess of births over deaths for any increase that has taken place in the population.
I do not for a moment contend that legislation such as that now before us has been anything more than one of the contributing causes. The honorable member for Grey stated with truth that many British investors were sufferers through the bursting of the financial boom in Australia, and that thev felt very sore about what then took place. Honorable members of the Labour Party must, however, acknowledge that it is significant that the inflow of immigrants ceased about the time that they took possession of the government of the country. t
– We had nothing to do with the bank failures in 1893.
– It is significant that immigration ceased almost simultaneously with the advent of the Labour Party to power, and the introduction of restrictive legislation. We have every reason to know that the legislation which we have passed recently has not proved satisfactory to the people of Australia. Otherwise, we should not find the States Governments taking action such as that resorted to to-night in New South Wales. Unfortunately, honorable members do not debate measures in such a way as to uphold the dignity of this Parliament, nor do they apparently show a full appreciation of the responsibilities which rest upon us. If we adopted a higher tone- of debate, and honorable members on each side gave their opponents more credit for honest intentions, we should raise this Chamber to a higher position than it now occupies in the esteem of the electors, and we should also hold a better place in the eyes of the people of Great Britain. Some honorable members have questioned whether any persons have been dissuaded from coming to Australia by the contract section of the Immigration Restriction Act. Several cases have come under my personal notice. One man, who is a farmer in the South of Scotland, desired to emigrate to Australia, but he would not come here unless he was assured of employment beforehand.
– He must have received information about Australia from the honorable member for Oxley.
– I do not know who gave him the information that contract labour was prohibited. He was a man of small capital, with _ a thorough knowledge of farming. If he had been able to start out with the knowledge that employment was awaiting him, he would have emigrated to Australia, and with little doubt would soon have become a farmer on his own account, and-set a good example to his neighbours.
– What stopped him from coming ?
– He could not come out! under contract.
– Did any one offer him a contract?
– Several persons would have offered him an engagement if they had been free to do so. I =think that the Bill needs considerable amendment, and I shall do my best when it reaches the Committee stage to assist in making it a workable measure. The objects of the Bill should be restricted to preventing the introduction of men in connexion with an industrial dispute, or under wage and other conditions inferior to those which prevail here. Upon this occasion, as in 1901, when the Act was introduced, I shall be found desirous to do everything I can to protect the workers of Australia in that direction. But we should not impose such restrictions as would render it impossible for reputable British immigrants to land here. I believe that some discretion must be allowed to the Minister j but, in the event of the law being violated, the person who is responsible for bringing contract labour into the Commonwealth under improper conditions, rather than the immigrant himself, should be punished. I trust that when the Bill reaches the Committee the Prime Minister will agree to amendments which are designed to more directly achieve the objects we all have in view.
– I do not propose to speak at very great length, because it is evident that honorable members are unanimous with regard to the objects to be achieved by this Bill, and differ only upon matters of detail. I trust that when we reach the Committee stage we shall direct our energies to making the measure effective and thoroughly workable. A good deal, has been said as to the policy of embodying the contract provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act in a separate measure. Personally, I think that the Prime Minister has acted wisely, because much of the odium that has attached to other sections of the Immigration Restriction Act has extended to the contract labour provisions. The Prime Minister is deserving of full credit for his judgment and for his courage in introducing the Bill. There is no doubt that a. good deal of misapprehension has existed in regard to this legislation. In the old country taunts in regard to it were repeatedly thrown in my teeth, and I was compelled to explain that the six hatters were “ held up “ simply because the employers who were importing them would not comply with the law. While there may be a good deal’ in our legislation and its administration to which exception may be taken, I have never admitted it when I have been absent from the country. In England a very deep-rooted feeling exists in regard to this matter. One hears it expressed on all -sides, and by all classes. When one talks about Australia people are disposed’ to turn the cold shoulder to him and to inquire : “ Do you belong to the British Empire at all? You seem to think that Australia, is not a component part of that Empire, judging by the way that you act there.” It behoves us to do what we can to remove that misapprehension. Personally I am of opinion that the danger of this contract provision to the worker of Australia has been very considerably exaggerated. We have already been told by the Prime Minister that very few immigrants under contract have sought admission to the Commonwealth, and in fighting the matter I think that we are shaking hands with the devil a long way off. I hold1 that we can afford to liberalize this Bill to a very great extent, without doing any injury whatever to the workers whom it is desired to protect. I do not know of anything more significant than the communication from the Agents-General which was received by the Government this week. Those gentlemen, recognising the important positions that they hold, and realizing the gravity of the step which they were about to take, must have decided to forward1 that letter only after the most mature deliberation;, and because they had the very strongest possible reasons for so doing. It is idle for the honorable member for Bland to attempt to brush the matter on one side by saying : “I do not believe it.”
– He did not say that. What he said was that he did not believe and did not trust the Agents-General.
– Whether he said that he did not believe them, or did not believe it, is quite immaterial. These gentlemen are in .the” very centre of the Empire, and are in close touch, with all the interests which permeate it. Seeing that they deliberately ‘ met in conference, and appointed the Agent-General of New South Wales as their chairman to pen the communication to which I refer, it is not for us to belittle their action. On the contrary, it behoves us so to shape our legislation as to meet the views which they have expressed. In regard to this matter, what do thev say? -
In connexion with this memorandum, we cannot refrain from expressing our conviction that, although a reasonable provision against the importation of labour during a strike could be fully vindicated, the real aims of the Commonwealth will not be understood or sympathized with, so long as constantly recurring incidents under the contract sections serve to remind, people of the provision which grates upon every British susceptibility, by treating the British worker under contract as an industrial “ pariah “ in a British community.
Surely that is enough to make us reconsider our position,, and endeavour to meet the public view which is held in the old country. That letter was not written by foreigners, but by our own officers who are familiar with the conditions which obtain both here and in England. They have sent us the very best advice that they can offer.
– By whom is the letter signed ?
– It is signed by T. A. Coghlan, J. W. Taverner, J. G. Jenkins, Horace Tozer, Walter James, Alfred Dobson. If ever Australia spoke with a united voice in the old land it speaks with such a voice in that memorandum.
– Through Messrs. Jenkins, Tozer,. and Taverner.
– Judas Iscariot Jenkins.
– It is all very well for the honorable member to call names, but that practice does not advance argument. We know that Mr. Coghlan has always stood up manfully for Australia. This memorandum states that he is standing up for it in the name and on behalf of all the States. We have heard a good deal during this debate about the “ stinking fish “ party. The honorable member for Hindmarsh referred to the matter very frequently this morning. He seldom addresses the House without relating the deplorable conditions which exist in South Australia, and especially in Adelaide. Seeing that all our debates are scanned, surely if such conditions do exist it is more fitting that we should attempt to remedy them, than that we should trumpet them forth to the world. I know of no greater instance of any person crying “ stinking fish “ than that afforded by the letter which was sent to Great Britain by the secretary of the United Trades Council in Sydney in October last. I will not sully the pages of Hansard, by reading it. That such a communication should emanate from a body of workers is positively disgraceful.
– It all depends upon whether its statements are true.
– The letter contains statements which, whilst they bear the appearance of truth, are to a very large extent untruths. I cannot understand how any body of workers could pen such a document unless they wished to damage the country.
– What part of the letter is untrue?
– Its statements possess a gloss of truth, but to a large extent they are untrue.
– Read the letter.
– I will. It is addressed to the Secretary of the Parliamentary Trade Union Congress, London, and reads as follows : -
Trades Hall, Sydney, 17th October, 1905.
Dear sir. - i am directed by resolution of the Sydney Labour Council, representing the associated unions of this city, to convey a warning to intending immigrants coming to this State, either in search of work, or as settlers on the land.
That is the way for Australia to grow. The communication continues -
In each of the principal cities of Australia are large numbers of unemployed workmen, for whose services there is no demand.
I know of no time in the history of Australia when there were not a large number of unemployed in our cities. No matter what conditions may obtain, there will always be unemployed there, because some men will not leave the cities to accept work in the country. They prefer one meal a day with the pleasures of the city rather than regular work with three meals a day in the country. The letter continues -
The acquirement of land by agriculturists in this State is a slow and costly process, encumbered by complicated land laws, while but little land of suitable character is available for the many applicants that would readily become settlers on the soil under favorable conditions.
That is a gross misstatement. Both in New South Wales and Victoria, estates are being broken up every day.
– The honorable member must know that for every single block of land available there are 100 applicants.
– There are not.
– There were more than 500 applicants for one block in New South Wales.
– The letter continues-
Climatic effects and recurring periods of drought render the lot of the farmer one of insecurity and hardship.
That statement is only partially correct, because the whole of Australia is not subject to droughts. A great deal of it possesses a very fair rainfall, and even in parts which are somewhat dry, thousands of settlers are making a very comfortable living.
In the mechanical and skilled trades the supply is far in excess of the demand, and altogether the prospect of workmen coming to Australia to improve their position by finding employment, or by becoming settlers on the land, is one of most unpromising and forbidding aspect. Yours, &c, J. P. Cochran, Secretary.
I say that no greater slander upon Australia has ever been penned.
– How much of that communication is untrue?
– Both the Canadian and the United States Federations have been frequently referred to during this discussion. We have! to recollect that Canada made no great strides in development until she began to encourage immigration.
– To open her lands.
– Exactly. But. the difference between Canada and Australia is that in the former there are organizations who make it their special business to attract people to that country, and to look after them upon their arrival. What we need in Australia is some person who will “grip” this question. That, however, cannot be accomplished until an arrangement has been made between the whole of the States and the Commonwealth. We cannot secure such an arrangement at present, because the States do not trust the Commonwealth. The trend of our legislation has induced them to distrust us, and therefore thev do not meet us in the friendly and” patriotic way that thev should.
– If thev do not trust us, it is a wonder that thev elect us.
– I think it is the duty of this Government to get into touch with the States Governments as quickly as possible.
– We have approached them twice at conferences, with a. view to coming to some arrangement, but without success.
– The matter is too serious a one to permit of our accepting a rebuff. If the States are approached in a proper spirit, I believe that they will join hands with us, arid probably the letter of the Agents-General will be the means of bringing us into closer touch with them. During. the past six years, Canada has settled nearly half-a-million immigrants upon her lands. In igo4, more than 134,000 of that class arrived there.
– They were not under contract.
– The question of whether or not they were under contract is not material to the point at issue. I think that my honorable friends opposite go too far in that regard. It is far better that men should come out under contract than that they should set out on a wild-goose chase. Although immigrants to Canada may not be under a binding contract, they are to all intents and purposes under an agreement ; because from the moment that they are per suaded to leave their native land, they are cared for by .officers of the Canadian Government. In the first place, an immigration agent seeks out those who are willing to emigrate, and having assisted them to secure their passages, places them on ship-board. Whilst at Montreal recently, I had an insight into the -way in which immigrants are cared for. The Canada, by which I travelled, arrived in port ten hours after theVictorian, which carried about 600 immigrants. We had about 400 on board the Canada. Most of these were from the Continent. They consisted of Swedes, Danes, Germans, and others, and, taken as a whole, were a reputable, decent-looking body of’ men. On reaching Montreal they were met bv an immigration agent, escorted to quarters, and supplied with food. On the following morning they were placed on trains running to Winnipeg or to the north-west, where work or land would be available for them. Our difficulty is that we cannot guarantee to find openings for immigrants. But is it to be said that in Australia, a country comprising 3,000,000 square miles,, and as large as the United States, room cannot be found for a million or two of immigrants ?
– At the present time the honorable member could not place 100 immigrants on the land in Australia within three months.
– What is to prevent the Commonwealth Parliament from buying up some of the large estates in Riverina and elsewhere, and taking steps, in conjunction with the States, to utilize the water supply,, and so make the land available for immigrants? It has been represented that there is a large area of land in the United States available for immigrants. As a matter of fact, nearly all the good land there has passed into private hands. I do .not think that there is an acre of Government land in California available for an immigrant. With the exception of the arid areas, which no one has thought fit to take up, but which are now falling intothe hands of the central Government, who are endeavouring, by conservation works, toimprove them, there is very little land belonging either to the States or the National Government which is available for immigrants. But the people themselves havetaken the matter in hand. California, Colorado, and, indeed, every State, has its committee of public-spirited men working inconjunction with the State authorities in an. endeavour to advance settlement. The sooner we resort to something of the kind the better. It has also been said that the immigration laws of the United States are more restrictive than are those of Australia. That is not correct. Their laws are certainly restrictive so far as the importation of contract labour is concerned, but intending immigrants do not trouble about entering into contracts, because they know that as soon as they arrive they will be able to secure either employment or land on which to settle.
– But if a man is without money he will not be allowed to land.
– A man has to show that he is not likely to become a burden on the country.
– Something more than that is required. The honorable member has not read the Immigration Restriction Act of the United States.
– I was in the United States for some time, and, having had conversations with immigration officers there, I am fairly familiar with the position. It is true that there are restrictive laws against Chinese immigrants, but others, have simply to show that they have sufficient money to prevent them from becoming a burden on the country while they are seeking employment.
– They do not admit contract labour.
– I admit that. Last year the United States had over 1,000,000 immigrants, and during the last twenty years there have been, on the average, nearly 500,000 immigrants a year flocking to that country. The United States did not pass a law against the introduction of contract labour until it was necessary to do so ; but here we have adopted such legislation before there is scarcely any need for it. The United States did not pass such an Act until the trouble arose in the anthracite regions of Pennsylvania, where a low type of immigrants was introduced to cut down wages. Such legislation was then absolutely necessary, because the States in which resort was being had to such practices were being ruined. We have had no such trouble, and I fail to see why, in order to cope with what, after all, is only a shadowy danger, we should stop immigration, and so retard the progress of the country. As to the policy of a White Australia, I may say that everything I saw during my tour round the world convinced me of its wisdom. Wherever there has been a large influx of the lower races, evils have followed. Whilst the introduction of such men may for a time fulfil its object - the object of finding labour - that labour, sooner or later, turns upon those who employ it, and I feel that it is far better to keep Australia white, even if the observance of that policy renders its growth slower than it might otherwise be. But the policy of a White Australia does not mean that we should keep Australia for Australians. There are fine types of white men in other countries. Why should we turn our backs on our brothers and sisters, in the old land ? We all have relatives there, and to deprive our own flesh and blood in Great Britain of an opportunity to come to Australia, where they may enjoy a freer and better life, is not only cruel, but unpatriotic. I deeply regret that the Government have seen fit to set aside the Bill for the appointment of a High Commissioner. I know what is the feeling in the old land, and recognise the necessity for the appointment of an active, able, vigilant representative of the Commonwealth in London. We shall never make any headway there until we are represented by a man who is ready with his pen and his. tongue, and is in touch with commercial and other interests. The position will be a difficult one, and I do not envy the man who secures it. But we need such a representative. The representatives of the States speak only for the individual parts of the Union. We need some one to speak for a united Australia, to correct misapprehensions, and to refute the slanders on the Commonwealth. I trust that the Government, at the earliest moment, will take this question in hand, and see that Australia is properly represented in the old land.
– It seems that the mountain is labouring, and bringing forth a mouse. I thought at the outset, and still think, that the Bill is unnecessary. Under the existing Act we have the regulation of the introduction of contract labour, and that system is to prevail under this measure. It would have been wiser not to bend to the storm of obloquy under which we have been suffering in consequence of the misrepresentations made as to the provisions of the existing Act. I was of opinion that the quarry of misrepresentations was being rapidly worked out, and I sincerely hope that this amendingBill will not open, as it were, a new quarry, out of which fresh misrepre- sentations may be carved. It would have been better had we left the contract labour section of the existing Act to’ the test of time, and to the experience and common sense of the people on both sides of the water. There is not the slightest doubt that the accusations made against Australia, fomented as they were from this side of the water, have done us harm, and there can be no doubt that they were unjust. The honorable member for Echuca was perfectly right. There has not been a single case in which a desirable immigrant was excluded by virtue of the contract section. The honorable member, as a patriotic Australian, has put, as far as he could, the true position before those abroad who slander Australia.’ I will also say that I watched the honorable member’s career in the Victorian Parliament, and was pleased to find that, although we differed so widely in our opinions upon some matters, we could rely upon him to tell the truth about Australia. I must confess that I wish that the spirit which has animated him had animated a number of others who belong to Australia, and ought to be loyal “to it. There has not been a single case of a man being excluded from Australia who ought to have come in. There are a number of matters dealt with in this Bill which might well have been left to regulations under the existing Act, or to the discretion of the Minister. But, as the Bill has been introduced, we must make the best of it, and I sincerely hope that the Prime Minister’s wish that it will help to dispel misunderstandings with regard to our contract labour law will be fulfilled.
– Do not the contract labour provisions of the Act go further than the honorable and learned member originally 3. d voc 3, ted ?
– I do not think so.
– I have read the speech made by the honorable member when the Immigration Restriction Bill was under consideration, and I think that they do.
– I said then, and shall always say, that no party in Australia has ever placed on its platform a proposal to exclude white people from the Commonwealth.
– The honorable and learned member said that we did not want Australia for the Australians.
– That is certainly the case. We. shall always welcome to Australia those who have vigour and decency to commend them. There never has been the slightest objection to such immigrants; but I think honorable members on al! sides object strongly to attempts to lower the standard of living in Australia by the introduction of races of a lower type. I understand that, although frequent reference has been made during the debate to the Immigration Restriction Act of the United States, no specific reference has been made to its sections. The House may be interested to learn how stringent they are as compared with those of the Commonwealth Act. In 1885 the United States passed their first law on the subject. It is to be found in the volume for the 48th Congress, 2nd session, chapter 164. In the second section it is set forth” that ali contracts, whether expressed or implied, made between any company or person, and any foreigner, to perform labour or service in the United State, before that foreigner enters the States, ‘are utterly void.i and of no effect.
– Foreigner, not citizen of the United States !
– I shall deal with that point; I arn now merely giving the section as it stands. Honorable members will see that it contains no exception, such as our law does, in regard to specially skilled labour. Every one under contract who is a foreigner is excluded. No doubt honorable members think that they have scored a point against my position, by pointing out that the United States laws exclude aliens only, but it must be remembered that that country has not a world-wide Empire, such as that of Great Britain, and that all the citizens of the United States subscribe to the same standards of comfort and of living. They are all of one grade. The United States does not control an empire comprising black people,, yellow people, and1 people of all. shades of colour, and all conditions of life. But now that that country has taken possession of the Philippines and Hawaii, I shall wait with interest to see whether, if immigration of coloured persons takes place from those possessions to America., Congress will not pass laws to restrict it.
– The Bill before us deals with white people only.
– The distinction which honorable members have attempted to draw between our legislation and that of the United States is a distinction without a difference. I admit that the United States legislation excludes aliens only, but,,, on the other hand, we exclude only such mem- bets of the Empire as do not subscribe to the same standards of living as our own. The United States Act of 1885 imposes a penalty on masters of vessels bringing persons (Under contract to that country. Section 8 of the Act of 1887 - 49th Congress, Act 220 - provides that all persons included in the prohibition shall, upon arrival, be sent back to the countries to which they belong, and whence they came. Then the Act of 1891 - 51st Congress, 2nd session,, Act 551 - excludes all idiots and insane persons; all paupers or persons likely to become a public charge ; all persons suffering from a loathsome or dangerous contagious disease; all persons who have been convicted of, felony, or any infamous crime or misdemeanour involving moral turpitude; and persons whose ticket or passage money has been paid for by another, or who have been assisted by others to come to America, unless it is shown, on special, inquiry, that they do not belong to any of the four classes first mentioned, or to the class of contract labourers excluded by the Act of 1885. That Act also provides for the inspection of immigrants ora landing, and makes it penal to advertise for immigrants in England or any other country. The only thing which a steamship company can do is to advertise its sailing arrangements. There are also extraordinary powers of inspection and1 medical examination,, while aliens brought to the States must, if practicable, be sent back by the vessels by which they came, the cost of their maintenance on land, as well as the expense of their return, being borne by the owner or owners of the vessels by which they came. The Act also imposes penalties on masters and shipowners who infringe it.
– The exclusion is not even limited to manual labour.
– That is so, and I remember that about fourteen years ago, when a minister was imported from England for Broadway Church, New York,,! it was objected that he came under contract, and an injunction was obtained to prevent him from remaining. Fortunately’ for the church, I suppose the Supreme Court reversed the judgment, holding that the Act applied to manual labourers only, and did not cover ministers of religion. As a consequence, the Act of 1891 was passed, which removes disabilities from ministers of religion and professional men generally. A curious effect of the American law is that it has made England the dumping ground for the worst fed, most diseased, and lowest classes of immigrants from Eastern Europe. The steamers which carry immigrants to America from Eastern Europe have an inspection of their passengers made at Southampton, and leave there any who are likely to be rejected in New York, with the result that the most unfit are stranded, and have to flock to London, or to some other large centre, to get their living as best they may. Consequently England is beginning to feel the importance of putting a stop to this practice, and during the present year the British Parliament has been engaged in considering a measure which is intended to have that effect.
– It has been passed.
– I believe that it has been passed, at all events in a mangled form. Although that country has always been generous in receiving refugees from other countries, and has been the home of the oppressed, her people now see the need for drawing to the door, and saying to certain classes, “We cannot admit you.” Our legislation contains no extraordinary or unprecedented provisions. The only distinction between it and that of America is that we do not draw a line between aliens and British subjects, and our reason for not doing so is that there are undesirable British subjects, just as there are undesirable aliens, whereas the United States have no undesirable citizens, all its subjects subscribing to the same standard of living. A relative of mine received a letter ‘ from London this week,, in which a lady who takes an interest in matters of this kind expresses a strong wish that Australia will not accept General Booth’s offer of immigrants. She says thai!, having made inquiries, she has found that none but persons of the criminal or extremely degenerate classes are to be sent out. I do not know how far we can rely on statements made upon private authority of that sort, but I know that my informant would give the best information available to her. Although this is a small Bill, it opens up a tremendous range of subjects, and touches the most vital problems of Australian development. Therefore I feel that you, Mr. Speaker, Have exercised your wise discretion in allowing honorable members to roam a little further afield than would ordinarily be permitted if the question were a mere alteration of legislative machinery.
– The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne opened his excellent speech with the well-known but rather quaint phrase “ that! the mountain has been in labour, and has brought forth a mouse,” but, having listened intently to his valuable contribution to the debate, I think that the phrase might be amended to read that the mountain has erupted, and sent down on the thirsty earth - a shower of ashes.
– The honorable member’s simile is a little mixed.
– In that case it should suit the honorable member. I do not think that the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne has made the position any clearer. He spoke of American precedents, and, when asked if America has passed laws excluding her own subjects, informed us that the United States does not possess a world-wide Empire like that of Great Britain, and therefore has no need to exclude her own subjects. But, with singular disingenuousness for one who has apparently studied the immigration laws of all countries), he omitted to tell us of the immigration law of Canada, which expressly excepts the subjects of the Empire, of which Canada, as well as Australia, forms a part. An honorable and learned gentleman who, having full public knowledge at his disposal, supplemented by excellent private intelligence, puts only half the truth before us–
– There is always some mean insinuation from the honorable member.
– What have I insinuated ?
– That I withheld from the House something I knew.
– Does not the honorable and learned member know the Canadian law?
– I shall not answer any more of the honorable member’s questions, though I will tell the House that I do not know it.
– Then I regret that an honorable and learned member who possesses so much information on every subject should have risen to address the House on a question of such vital importance to Australia without looking up the greatest precedent of all. Is that the manner in which he usually prepares himself for the speeches which he makes here? If it is, I have done him an injustice in concluding that he must have known of that precedent.
– The honorable member ought to learn some manners.
– I have often been told that I had better do a number of things which have nothing whatever to do with the debate. The honorable and learned member told us that we mustbe loyal to Australia - as if any honorable member was not loyal, without any injunction from the honorable and learned member.
– Those who traduce the country are not loyal to Australia.
– I hope that the honorable member is not referring to the secretary of the Labour Council, Sydney, who sent that extraordinary letter to England?
– I am referring to the members of the Opposition.
– The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne invited us to concern ourselves only with the question as to how this proposed legislation would affect our own people, and not to consider how it might be regarded at the other end of the world. This suggestion comes with singularly bad grace from the honorable and learned member, who introduced and fought in this House a motion absolutely foreign to the spirit or the concerns of the people of Australia. I should like to remind the honorable and learned member that possibly there might be reasons - I hesitate, because of the umbrage which he took when I previously attributed knowledge to him to say that he must know of these reasons - why the over-crowded millions of England and America should consider that their countries were already full, and why stringent laws should be enacted by them against excessive immigration. In Australia these reasons do not exist. Every section of the public regards a bigger population as essential to our future well-being. The deputy leader of the Opposition has just handed to me the Canadian Act, which the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne overlooked in the course of his laborious investigations. This Act was assented to on the 29th June, 1897, and section 1 reads as follows: -
From and after the passing of this Act it shall be unlawful for any person, company, partnership, or corporation, in any manner to prepay the transportation, or in any way to assist or encourage the importation or immigration of any alien or foreigner into Canada -
No mention is made of the subjects of the King. The Act expressly excludes aliens and foreigners under contract, and none other ! Section 9 reads as follows : -
This Act shall apply only to such foreign countries as have enacted and retained in force or as enact and retain in force laws or ordinances applying to Canada of a character similar to this Act.
Therefore, even so far as foreign and alien immigration is concerned, the Dominion is open to treat with foreign countries.
– Does the honorable member favour the adoption of similar measures in Australia?
– Yes, with the one safeguard that no importation shall be made at strike time with a view to assisting in industrial disputes, and that no contract shall be binding if it be based upon rates of pay lower than those which obtain in Australia. I would submit one other piece of information to my industrious honorable friend. On Wednesday, the 20th September
– I rise to a point of order. After the way in which the honorable member has spoken of me at an earlier stage of his speech, may I, through you, sir, request that he should not address me as his “honorable friend”?
– I assure the honorable and learned member that if he prefers it I shall not do it; but I still shall think it, and, indeed, he will also think it to-morrow. On the date mentioned, the honorable and learned member for Wannon asked a question on this very subject, and I think one might, therefore, have reasonably expected an honorable member to become acquainted with the position of affairs of which the honorable and learned gentleman now pleads being so innocent.
– The second reading of the Bill, and not the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne, is under discussion.
– If I am out of order–
– I am not ruling the honorable member out of order, but I am suggesting that as the conduct of the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne is not in question, it would be better to confine the discussion to the motion for the second reading of the Bill.
– I had intended to read the questions of the honorable and learned member for Wannon, and the answers supplied thereto; but perhaps it will be sufficient if I content myself with mentioning the date and their subject-matter, so that honorable members may refer to them if they so desire. I do not wish to any longer irritate the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne. The importance of the great question upon which this Bill has a bearing cannot be under-estimated in view of the fact that every party in this House puts immigration in the forefront of its platform. The Prime Minister has assured us that population is the very foundation-stone upon which we must base all our calculations for security of defence and for material advancement. Duringthe last year we have heard throughout the country - even from members of the Government - indictments of the Act which it is now sought to amend.
– By whom ?
– By the Treasurer.
– Would the honorable member read his statements?
– They are so voluminous and scathing that I hesitate to inflict them upon honorable members. The contract labour provisions of the Immigration Act have been condemned all over Australia, because, according to the members of the Labour Party, the people of England have misconstrued their innocent intention. This Bill is given to us. as an earnest of the determination of the Government to allay the irritation that has been excited in the mother country by paragraph g of section 3 of the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901. Although I am supremely disappointed with the measure, I do not propose to question at this stage the bona fides of the Government in bringing it forward. We were told that it was intended to convey a more statesman-like expression of our unalterable determination to safeguard the workers of Australia in the direction I have indicated. I shall support the second reading of the Bill, in the hope that when honorable members on this side of the Chamber have explained the reasons for the serious fears they entertain in regard to the Government proposals, the Prime Minister will see his way to amend it. If that course be adopted. I think the Bill will confer inestimable benefit upon the Com- monwealth. If that is not done, I shall be forced to conclude that there has been some back-sliding from platform utterances on the part of my honorable friends on the Government side of the House. What all honorable members say they want to do is to prevent labour from being introduced here at times of industrial strife, or at wages lower than those prevailing in Australia. That is a proposition which we all support, and I would suggest that honorable members opposite should not be suspicious of others when they suggest amendments. We all have the same end in view. The proposal which I favour is that any body of Anglo-Saxon workers should be encouraged to come here so long as they are not bound by a contract of less than the current rate of wages, and are not introduced for the purpose of influencing an industrial dispute. If they do interfere with the industrial conditions obtaining here in the way I have suggested, the Bill should confer power to void their contracts. Would any employer be foolish enough to pay the passages of a number of men from the old country if he knew that upon their arrival, there was a simple method by which his hold upon them could be annulled?
– That idea is good in theory, but it does not work out in practice.
– Has it ever been tried?
– Most decidedly.
– In Victoria.
– By adopting a provision such as I have outlined we should avoid the imputation that we wish to exclude members of our own race, by whose protection we enjoy whatever measure of prosperity we may possess to-day. To my mind this Bill throws additional difficulties in the way of desirable immigrants. The principal Act which it is sought to amend prohibits the admission of any immigrant under contract or agreement to perform manual labour within the Commonwealth, but contains a proviso that the Act shall not apply to workmen exempted by the Prime Minister for special skill required in Australia. What does this Bill propose? It provides that the only immigrants who shall be admitted under contract are those whose contracts have been approved by the Minister. The latter “ shall approve of the terms of the contracts only,” if, “in his opinion,” they have not been made “ in contemplation of or with a view to affecting an industrial dispute,” and if a difficulty is experienced by the employer in obtaining within the Commonwealth “a worker of at least equal skill and ability.” It also provides for a number of other essentials. Everything is left to “ the opinion of the Minister ‘ ‘ just as it is in the principal Act, and therefore I fail to see how it will effect an improvement in the existing law. What chance has the Minister of ascertaining whether the remuneration and other terms and conditions of employment under which immigrants have contracted are as advantageous to them as those current in Australia are to the workers who are already, here ? The proposition is unworkable upon the face of it, and, as the honorable member for Moira has said, must be amended in Committee. I think it is clear to every honorable member that any such proposition, if adopted, will only bring ridicule upon us. Not only does the Bill make it more difficult for a contract labourer to gain admission to Australia, but the Government inferentially seek to frighten him away after he has been admitted. It provides that if before the Minister approves of the terms of any contract the contract-immigrant lands in Australia, a number of things must happen. Amongst other things, it declares -
The employer shall pay to the contractimmigrant such specified sum of money (not exceeding £50) as the Minister thinks sufficient, either to maintain the contract-immigrant until he can be reasonably expected to find suitable employment -
I do not object to a word of that provision so far. But I do object to what follows, namely - or at the option of the contract-immigrant to enable him to return to the country whence he came.
I maintain that that is almost an invitation to him to return to the country whence he came because if the money be available the immigrant can return home if he wishes, without this express indication of his powers. I should also like to direct attention to the parallel which it seeks to establish between the treatment which is meted out to British subjects and that which is accorded to Chinamen. The Bill provides -
The foregoing provisions of this section do not apply where the contract-immigrant -
Surely that is treating members of our own race in the same way that we treat a Chinaman. In other words, we are asked to sanction the imposition of a poll-tax upon any Britisher who lands in Australia without the consent of the Minister of Trade and Customs. As we all recognise that insidious political influences may easily bs brought to operate upon the mind of a Minister it is clear that this provision will work out in the same way that a similar provision properly does in regard to the admission of Chinese. But, in. the case of the Chinese, we have a definite reason for our action. We. wish to maintain our racial purity. But will our race suffer by reason of an influx of our kith and kin from oversea? The Prime Minister has rather ingenuously stated that we can do nothing to attract immigration until -a drastic change has been effected in the land tenure of Australia. He told us - and he seemed to take considerable credit to himself for his action - that he had made an offer to the six States to assist immigration to them if they would, each and all, agree to amend their land laws in the way that he thought desirable. Surely lie must have had his tongue in his cheek when he made that suggestion. It is not our duty to concern ourselves with the faults of the Governments of the Australian States. They are independent Governments, and can well be trusted to look after themselves. But we ourselves have a duty to perform to the people of Australia - the duty of placing no additional barriers in the way of desirable immigrants to this country, and1 we should set our own, house in order before we indite the housekeeping of our neighbours. The Prime Minister admits that in Western Australia there is an unlimited area available, which is suitable for intending immigrants. If the doors- were thrown open wide, and if immigration were permitted to flow into Australia unrestricted, where would it go? Undoubtedly the bulk of it would go to that State in which the land tenure is upon the most equitable basis. If the Prime Minister does throw open the doors, it means that immigrants from England will go to Western Australia., and will continue to do so until the other States wake up and amend their land laws. Surely, if we wish to secure the amendment of those laws, the best way to accomplish our object is to admit immigrants wholesale. That would necessitate those States with bad land legislation taking action in the direction of placing it upon a level with the land legislation of other States. In conclusion, I wish to restate the fact, that, although I am in favour of the second reading of this Bill, I shall do all that I can in Committee to so amend it as to make it a useful piece of legislation. I am firmly convinced that if it passes in its present form, the people of Australia must necessarily conclude that some arrangement has been made between the two parties opposite with regard to its provisions. I do not trust the bona fides - and I make this statement in no invidious sense - of honorable members in the Ministerial corner with regard to the provisions of this Bill. I have seen them on all occasions supporting anything that is popular, as immigration is popular, in the country. I have seen them in the country supporting anything dealing with the Imperial connexion, as immigration deals with the Imperial connexion ; but whenever they are asked to do anything in this House to further such proposals, they declare that it is not the proposal itself, but the method of carrying it out which they dislike. If these honorable members force the Government to pass the Bill in its present form, the country cannot fail to come to the conclusion that they are as definitely opposed to immigration as they have recently shown themselves opposed to other things which stand for the Imperial connexion. Their votes on this question will be added to others until the people begin to understand them almost as well as does the House. I do not wish to say more at the present juncture,, but I hope that the Ministry will prove their bona fides in regard to this Bill, and show that, so far as this, one of the most important planks in- their platform, is concerned, they can be true to their election pledges.
– I recognise fully the value of time, and am not going to detain the House at verv great length. I feel, however, that a word or two should be said in reply to some of the remarks made by the two honorable members who have immediately preceded me. In the first place, it seems to me that the question of contract labour, irrespective altogether of the measure in which it may be dealt with,, is entirely misunderstood ; that the fact that it is a menace to the workers of any community, whether it be that of America, Canada, or Australia, is not recognised, or, if it is, that it is not appreciated. It is urged that the introduction of contract labour should be prohibited only during the currency of a strike or lock-out. But experience shows that contract labour is in any circumstances a menace to the workers where it is introduced. Let me give an illustration. The celebrated six hatters who came here under contract were- given a guarantee of employment, not only during the currency of their contract, but until their employer had been reimbursed the expenses incurred by him in bringing them here. The hat trade is a season trade. Only a certain number of men can be employed for a given number of months. What was the result of this arrangement? Although those men were to receive, the wage that was being paid to hatters already here, they received a considerable preference in the way of employment. When two-thirds of their fellow- journey men were walking the streets in search of work, they were fully employed because of the terms of the contract and the fact that their employer had to be reimbursed the expenses to which he had been put. I know of another case in which half-a-dozen men were brought out under contract by a leading manufacturer in Melbourne, who was then employing fifteen men. The employer put forth every effort to keep those six men in constant employment during the whole term of their engagement, and the other fifteen men were employed for only six months in the year. The latter did not object to the introduction of the men from abroad. They were prepared to welcome them, but what they said, and rightly said, was that they should take their share, and only their share, of the work offering; that they should not, on account of an agreement, be constantly employed whilst their fellow-workmen’ were walking the streets, and in some instances almost starving. I know of a jeweller who, anticipating trouble, although a. strike had not taken place, made arrangements to introduce labour under contract. The relationships between employer and employ^ were apparently most cordial. There was no suggestion of a lock-out; but one of the leading spirits in the workshop proposed that a union be formed. The employer dreaded the formation of a trade union. He took up the position that he could manage his own business, and that no one had a right to interfere with it. As soon as the proposal for the formation of a union was made he entered into correspondence with some persons in England, with the result that eighteen men were imported under contract, and displaced the founder of the union and the others who had joined with him. The men introduced under contract were given a preference until their agreement had been completed.
– And in the meantime the men displaced competed with other labourers for any work that was going.
– Had they come out as free men- had they understood the conditions under which they were coming here - I believe that they would have been welcomed by every working man, although their coming here meant a reduction in the volume of work to be performed. But when they came here to be a menace to other workmen, it was recognised that the employer was giving them an unfair advantage.
– Could not the difficulty have been met by declaring the contract void ?
– That would not have met the trouble. The jewellers were met at Port Melbourne pier, and agreed to attempt to break their contract. But they were face to face with the hard fact that they were in a new land, that their families were following them, and that they had no prospect of securing employment unless they complied with the contract which they had signed at Home. They had either to ratify that contract or be thrown out of employment, with no hope of securing work. The voiding of contracts would not overcome the difficulty. The only way to attract population and workers here is to provide fair conditions of’ employment and plenty of work. If that be done, it will attract immigrants just as a magnet attracts steel. Contract labour is objectionable under almost any circumstances. I can conceive of some cases where it may possibly be legitimate; but in all ordinary circumstances, the introduction of contract labour, either during the existence of an industrial dispute, in anticipation of one, or for the purpose of punishing those who form unions or agitate for Wages Boards is highly undesirable. I might mention the case of some skilful women engaged in a trade in Victoria who were displaced by the importation of workers from another State, because they had dared to form a union in connexion with the Wages Board.
– In what trade did .that occur ?
– I shall tell the honorable member privately ; I have a reason for not naming the trade at this juncture. I can assure the House that my connexion with industrial affairs in Melbourne, which extends over twenty years, has invariably borne out the truism that labour under contract is a menace to unionism, and a menace to our existing standard of wages. It gives to the already powerful employer an additional instrument of protection, and is of no benefit to the community. If there be more than sufficient work for the workers in any part of. Australia, that fact alone will attract men from other parts of the world.
– Just as men went from the eastern States to Western Australia.
– And from other countries, in such circumstances. People write to their friends in other parts of the world, stating that there industry is particularly busy, and that there is plenty of scope for workers. The result is that a dearth of labour does not last long under present industrial conditions in any part of the world.
– What would the honorable member have done with the eighteen jewellers when they landed here?
– I should not have sent them back. I should be prepared to endure a great deal rather than deal in that way with my fellow-British subjects; but I would Snake it illegal to introduce contract labour here under any conditions or circumstances. The contract system is unfair to the men, who, knowing nothing about our conditions, sign agreements to work here, whilst it is unjust to the men already in Australia. I should not dream’ of sending back men so. introduced, but we should not allow workers to be brought here unless they are free to comply with our conditions of labour and to take their share, and only their share, of the work which is offering. It has been urged that the Trades Hall Council of Sydney has wronged the Commonwealth by telling the workers of England that it is inadvisable for any of them to come to Australia under our present industrial conditions. I fail to see where the disloyalty comes in ; I fail to see that to state a fact regarding any country is to traduce that country. No honorable member acquainted with our industrial conditions could conscientiously write to men and women in other parts of the world and advise them to come to Australia in search of employment. I am assured by one of the senators representing New South Wales that he knows of no district in that State where 500 .families could be settled on land which is not at present alienated.
– The position is worse in Victoria.
– We know that at the present time there- is no opportunity whatever for. the settlement of immigrants in Victoria. Our leading newspapers are pointing out that a Compulsory Land Purchase Act is an urgent necessity ; that our so-called local settlement policy is not sufficient to satisfy our present needs. It has been said that opportunity is offered for settlement here. Under what conditions? It is notorious that in the Western District of Victoria grazing and agricultural land is being boomed to as great an extent as were city lands in the boom days of a few years ago.
– Owing to the action of the State Government.
– Because Crown lands are not available to those who. wish to settle.
– And the Government are expected to buy the estates at boom prices.
– At- the prices offering. Could any honorable member conscientiously write to a friend in England, “Come to Australia. There is plenty of work. Our factories are well filled, and our farmers are in want of hands.” On the contrary, if we told the truth, we should have to say to our friends at home that our land laws are such that land is not available for settlement, and that in our iron trade and various other industries there are hundreds of men working only halftime, while others are. walking the streets.
– I have heard nothing worse from the Opposition.
– These are facts. The difference between the statements which I am making and those of the producers of Australia is that what I am saying is true, while they misrepresent, our laws, and say what is grossly unf air and unjust about our conditions. When I was on a voyage to Western Australia in January last with the Old-Age Pensions Commission, I met on the mail boat the manager of a bank in Jersey,- who is evidently a prominent commercial man in the Channel Islands. He assured me that he left Sydney under the belief - which was removed only by my statement that it was absolutely incorrect- that the loafers in the Domain there could not be employed by the farmers or pastoralists of New South Wales for less than 7s. 6d. a day; that it would be illegal to offer them less, because that was the minimum wage fixed by the law of the State. He was going home with the intention of placing that position of affairs before the people of England as one of the effects of our labour laws.
– Was he pulling the honorable member’s leg?
– The honorable member knows that similar misrepresentations have been frequent, and that no less a person than the Rev. Dr. Fitchett has misrepresented our laws, and done no end of mischief by the statements which hehas published in the press and from the platform.
– Has not the honorable member himself just said that our land laws are wicked ?
– I have dealt with facts. This bank manager was also going to England under the impression that the old and slow are being thrust out of our factories by our Wages Boards, and that it is impossible for youths to be apprenticed in any industrial’ occupation. Such wrong impressions do us an immense amount of harm.
– I would not relate such tommy-rot.
– This tommy-rot is rehashed, and served up in newspapers all over Great Britain, and does us an untold amount of harm. Had the real position of affairs been stated in the English press, as it might have been by leading Australians abroad, a different impression in regard to Australia would exist in the minds of the English people. I agree with the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne that the action which the Government are taking by introducing this measure is unnecessary, and that it would have been better to publish as broadly as possible throughout the old country the real effects of our legislation. The only good that I can see is likely to result from the passing of the Bill is that our law relating to contract labour will therein be set out and elaborated separately from our law relating to the immigration of aliens.
– Is that the honorable member’s only reason for voting for the Bill ?
Mr.MAUGER. - Yes.
– It is a very poor one.
– The honorable member is at liberty to express his opinion on the subject. I think that the effect of the measure will be to remove a good deal of misunderstanding, and to prevent misrepresentation. I have in my hand a copy of an excellent speech recently delivered by the Chief Justice of Victoria in regard to the progress of Australia. In it he shows the great recuperative powers of this country, and it would be better to publish such speeches broadcast throughout Great Britain than to decry our own legislation.
– Especially our land legislation, as the honorable member has done.
– I am sorry that the honorable member is so fond of sneering at those of more experience than himself. I tell him, in all kindliness, that he does himself and his cause no good by such remarks, which create an irritation displeasing to every right-thinking man in the House.
– Why this vicious, attack?
– It is not a vicious attack. The honorable member’s remarks do not assist the cause which he supports. I believe that the Bill will help to remove misrepresentation, and to place before the people of England a true expression of our intention, which is not to prevent the immigration of British subjects, but to prevent the introduction of labour under contract. A return recently laid on the table of the Senate shows differences between the wages paid to iron-workers and others engaged in agricultural implement works in Great Britain and the wages paid to similar workmen in Victoria, as great as 25s. and 27s. 6d. a week, the Victorian workers getting so much more than their English fellows,.
– Any labourers imported under contract would have to be paid current rates of wages.
– Workmen in England would readily accept £3 a week to come to Australia if they were not informed of all the conditions and circumstances surrounding employment here.
– Under my proposal, if they had been deceived, they could at once go to the Police Court, and have an unfair contract amended.
– I do not think that that would help them. I am as anxious as is the deputy leader of the Opposition, or any other member of the House, to make it’ known in all parts of the Empire that we are prepared to receive free white labour in as, large numbers as like to come here.
– And we, on this side of the House, are as desirous as is the honorable member to maintain good rates of wages and proper industrial conditions.
– No doubt honorable members are; I have never disputed the fact. Speaking from personal experience, however, I say that, unless, labour comes out here absolutely free, it will be used to reduce wages, to lengthen hours, and to make the conditions of employment more irksome in other ways. Contract labour will always be used to punish those who organize trade unions and try to better the lot of the workers.
– The Bill has been spoken of as a non-contentious measure, but, although I have listened to all the speeches which have been made upon it to-day, I have not heard two honorable members, agree in regard to its provisions. If that proves it to be a non-contentious measure, I say, “ From any further legislation of this character, good Mr. Speaker, deliver us.” I take it that the Ministry feel compelled to try to allay the irritation which has been caused at the other end of the world by our existing laws, and have, therefore introduced the Bill. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports indulged in croaking and calamity howling about Australia. He spoke of things, being in such a bad way here that the introduction of contract labour would be a menace to our welfare, and suggested that the Commonwealth should be regarded as a close preserve; but he concluded his remarks by complimenting the Chief Justice of Victoria on a speech in which the great recuperative powers of our industries were highly praised. I do not think that calamity howling and croaking will benefit the country, nor am I of opinion that Australia should be made a close preserve. I do not agree with those who think that our present population is sufficient for the hundreds of millions of acres which the continent contains. It is difficult to understand why honorable members should object to the introduction here of labour brought out under contracts stipulating that the rates of pay and conditions, prevailing here shall be enjoyed. As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports is a strong protectionist, and believes in local manufactures, I ask him, in the words of a locally-manufactured poem of the Australian poet Gordon, “ What is the tale you are telling; what is the drift of your lay?” Is he opposed to contract labour coming here at any time? I understand that the Bill makes no distinction between Britishers and aliens.
– Would the honorable member support an amendment prohibiting the introduction of foreigners under contract?
– I will deal with that question at the right time. Although the honorable member for Melbourne Ports regards it as a menace to Australian interests that persons should be brought here under contract, I take the opposite view. He seems to think that the men who drift here on the mere chance of getting employment form the best class of immigrants; but, in my opinion, those who come under contract are a more desirable class. The fact that they have insisted, before leaving their work in England, and journeying over 13,000 miles of ocean, on obtaining a contract guaranteeing them employment in this country, shows them to be men of caution and balance. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports said that he would like to see labourers invited here by their fellowindustrials already in the country. But we are not all children. We know that the Australian worker does not extend any general invitation to his fellows in England to come out here and compete with him, but he merely asks some old friend or relative to join him here. We cannot rely upon our population being augmented to any extent by such means. It is a very bad thing for Australia that our population should have become practically stationary. Protectionist members must see that the introduction of thousands of people from abroad would increase the number of consumers of local products, and thus help to build up our native industries. I thoroughly agree with the proposal to penalize people who may bring workers out here with a view to reducing wages or lowering the standard of living in Australia. We should not, however, place any obstacles in the way of men who desire to join us in building up the nation. I do not approve of the introduction of anything in the nature of a passport system, such as appears to be contemplated by the Bill.
– What is the matter with the passport system ? The honorable member would find an English passport very useful tohim if he were travelling.
– Wc have no need of any such system in Australia, or anywhere else in the British Empire. Although we are told by the Prime Minister that it is intended to clearly define our intentions with regard to restricting immigrants, and to allay the irritation that has been excited in the old world, it seems to me that the proposed legislation will have the opposite effect. The members of the Opposition do not desire that any opportunity should be afforded for the introduction of undesirable immigrants, but they think that the meaning of the Legislature should be clearly expressed, and that the Minister should not have power to entirely abrogate the provisions of the Act in the manner proposed. We are prepared to take up the same position that we assumed when the Act was passed in 1901, but we cannot go to the length of permitting the Minister to be the sole arbiter as to the class of labour that it is necessary to introduce in order to carry on our industries to the greatest advantage. It would be absurd to place the Minister in the position contemplated by the Bill. He would have to look to interested persons for information to guide him to a conclusion. He would have to apply to members of the unions, who would like to make our industries a close preserve for themselves. The Minister would be called upon to consider a number of questions besides skill. A man might be a skilful artisan, but in other respects an undesirable citizen, and the Minister could not be expected to enter upon the inquiry that would be necessary to enable him to arrive! at a just conclusion. I trust that paragraph b, subclause 2. clause 5, which relates to this matter, will be struck out. No one wishes to see the wages or standard of living of our workers reduced, but the sooner we abandon the idea of making Australia a close preserve for those who happen to be here, the better it will be for all concerned. In all walks of life, an increase in the number of workers, instead of throwing men out of work, always has a tendency to widen the avenues of employment. Everything I say with regard to the introduction of immigrants is subject to the condition that they are of a desirable class. Skill alone is not a sufficient recommendation. Criminals are skilled men, and verv often brainy men, but thev would not be desirable immigrants. A New Caledonian recidivists, for example, would not be welcomed here. Some honorable members seem to think that, if workmen were introduced here under contract in” any numbers, they would prove a menace to our artisans ; but I think that the man who comes here as a free immigrant, without any assurance that fie will obtain employment, is likely to prove a still greater menace. I would ask the Prime Minister to agree to any amendment that will have the effect o’f making it clear that we do not place Britishers- upon the same footing as aliens and foreigners. I say emphatically that at all times we should be ready to admit desirable immigrants from among our fellow -subjects in Great Britain, and that we should not refuse to accept them merely because they come out here under contract. I understand that members of the Labour Party fear that the introduction of contract immigrants would have a prejudicial effect upon the workers in the industries in which they were engaged after their contracts had expired. That difficulty, however, could be easily overcome. The workers in most of our industries have powerful unions, and they could encourage the newcomers to join .their organizations, and thus guard against any reduction of wages in the future. The man who looks beyond a little bit ahead of him, and insures employment for himself before he starts from the old country, is of the class that we want in Australia. I believe that Victoria profited greatly in the early days from the introduction of a very desirable class of Scotch immigrants, and New Zealand certainly owes much of her progress to a similar class of settlers, who were attracted to her shores many years ago. We want to add to that element in our own population, and I would remove’ all obstacles in the way of immigration except such as are designed to exclude undesirables.
– I have listened attentively to most of the speakers who have addressed themselves to this subject, and more particularly to members of the Opposition. I must confess that I cannot understand the necessity for all the discussion m which the latter have indulged. Almost the whole of them have practically stated that they favour everything which is proposed in this Bill. Thev have declared that Ihe existing la.w requires amendment to prevent our own kith and kin from being excluded from the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Dalley told us that he is opposed to making Australia a close preserve, but he also said that he is against lowering the standard of wages or the conditions of employment which obtain here to-day. The addresses of honorable members opposite have been chiefly characterized by a desire to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. The speech which the deputy leader of the Opposition delivered this morning was a remarkable instance of that. Other honorable members opposite have merely echoed what he said. In grandiloquent language, he declared this morning that the Bill is a sham and a farce. It is significant, however, that he neglected to show in what respect it was a sham and a farce. He spoke about excluding our own kith and kin, and affirmed that the Commonwealth should be open to all white persons who care to enter it. He chided the Prime Minister with not having done as much as he might have accomplished in the direction of encouraging immigration. I contend that in offering to contribute towards bringing out desirable immigrants, for whom work is waiting upon arrival, the honorable and learned gentleman has done everything in his power. He has asked the States Governments to do that which they should do in their own interests, in the absence of any invitation from him. He has asked them to endeavour to make available to the people the land which has been so largely monopolized by speculators. All that is needed to insure the flow of population to our shores is a guarantee that immigrants can obtain employment upon their arrival. Only the Other day, one applicant for a block of land in New South Wales intimated that during thirteen years he had attended twelve ballots, but that he had been unsuccessful. The same thing has occurred to many citizens of that State during the past twelve years. Until the States offer opportunities to men to settle here, we cannot develop the lands of the country or extendthose industries which are dependent upon our primary productions.
– The honorable member could not have heard what I said this morning.
– I did hear what the honorable member said, and I also noted the statements of the honorable member for Wentworth. I will undertake to say that the latter knows nothing whatever about the land laws of New South Wales, and very little about any land laws.
– I have never travelled upon the floor of a railway carriage in my life.
-That remark is worthy of the honorable member. That he can make such an observation when we are engaged in the discussion of a great public question indicates the smallness of his mind. It is a characteristic of the honorable member that he is as small of mind as he is of stature. He stated that we should admit immigrants wholesale, in order to force the States to amend their land laws. Such a statement betrays a most hopeless condition of ignorance. Why does he want immigrants admitted wholesale ? In the interests of that class of employers, who are always anxious to secure an over-crowded labour market. They would naturally like to see the country swamped with immigrants so that the workers might be brought to heel, and forced to labour for longer hours and for lower wages. If we require any illustration of what is necessary to make a country prosperous, we have only to turn our eyes to New Zealand. There it has been demonstrated by Mr. Seddon, who is now, in effect, declared to be the perpetual Prime Minister of that Colony, that the secret is to be found in the imposition of a progressive land tax, which will have the effect of bursting up the large estates. That is the only way in which we can increase the population of Australia.. If we wish to restore prosperity to the country, we shall best accomplish our object by giving effect to the reforms which have conferred so much benefit upon New Zealand. To-night the honorable member for Melbourne Ports made some references to the compulsory purchase of. land. In all the States to-day we find that the Governments are attempting to devise some means by which to restore to the people the lands which have been alienated by the Crown. There was never a more charming lot of hypocrites anywhere than those who at present occupy responsible positions in the various States. In New South Wales recently we have had an example of the influences which have been at work in connexion with the resumption of the Myall Creek Estate, and in Victoria the same forces are operative. Why do not the States, Governments submit proposals for a system of land taxation, making the valuations of the owners the basis upon which estates shall be resumed. Then the people would be able to secure blocks at a reasonable rental. I have no more to say as to. the fallacious arguments of honorable members opposite who are so evidently opposed to all legis- lation of this character. The honorable member for Wentworth imitating, as he usually does, other members of the Opposition, declared that he was in favour of the Canadian system, but that he was opposed to the introduction of workers under contract to undermine the position of strikers during the currency of an industrial dispute. He added that he was against anything which would lead to a reduction in the ruling rates of wages here. The Bill does not go further than that.
– It certainly does.
– With the exception of the provisions relating to contract labour, it consists simply of an interpretation of the existing Act. Disputes have arisen as to the intention of the Act, and I am not surprised that the Opposition should object to the introduction of this measure, since it will deprive them of that which has been one of their most serviceable war-cries. They have referred time and again to the case of the six hatters and the six potters, with a view to bolstering up their own political views. But with the definition given in this Bill of the administrative powers of the Minister, all cause for complaint will pass away. The Opposition will not be able to condemn the Minister for doing that which I trust the Parliament will empower him to do. Once we pass this Bill, they will have to blame not the Minister, but the Parliament. They fear that with the passing of this measure their favorite occupation - that of denouncing the administration of the contract labour provisions of the existing Act - will disappear.
– Does the honorable member believe this Bill is necessary?
– The honorable member sought to make some capital out of the memorandum from the Agents-General regarding the impressions which the people of Great Britain have formed concerning our immigration laws. He declared that these gentlemen were beyond reproach.
– I know that some of them are.
– I am not suggesting that they are not. But they are the servants of the States, and it seems that the Commonwealth has become latterly the butt of every prominent State politician. It is impossible to take up a newspaper without finding in it a report of an attack made by a State Premier or a prominent member of one of the States Parliaments upon the busi ness capacity of this Legislature. Whilst the Agents-General may be able to interpret the feelings of the people of Great Britain with regard to the Immigration Act and its administration, we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that every one of them has to some extent to study how best he may please those to whom he owes his position. There are not many democrats in the Commonwealth who would credit Mr. Jenkins, the Agent-General for South Australia, with any strong desire to support the legislation which we have passed. There are few who would have the temerity to suggest that Sir Horace Tozer, Agent-General for Queensland, or Mr. James, who was appointed by the late Labour Government as AgentGeneral for Western Australia, is in sympathy with such legislation. As to Mr. Taverner, the Agent-General of Victoria, the recent investigation which took place has furnished us with an illustration of his sympathy with all that is right.
– His character was cleared by that investigation, and it is unfair for the honorable member to refer to the matter.
– I am not satisfied as to that.
– He is not here to defend himself.
– I am dealing with a question of public importance.
– But what has Mr. Taverner’s position to do with it?
– That is for me to judge. Of all the Agents-General, the only one who, so far as I am aware, has shown some sympathy with the object of such legislation as this is the representative of New South Wales ; but I have yet to be convinced that he is in full sympathy with it.
– It is a question not of sympathy but of whether they have told the truth.
– I cannot answer for that. All that I know is that the Earl of Jersey, on being interviewed upon his arrival in Australia, made a statement absolutely opposed to that put forward by the Agents-General.
– Even had he agreed with that statement, the honorable member would not have accepted it.
– I am prepared to take the word of any honorable man. I have heard men speak of the unimpeachable character of many of the aristocracy of England, whose humanity cannot be doubted.
– According to the honorable member, an aristocrat is an honorable man, whilst an Agent-General is not.
– I am always prepared to give every attention to the statements of those whose opinions are of value, and who I know speak fearlessly and without bias. The people of New South Wales have the greatest respect for the Earl of Jersey, and I would rather take his version of what is the English view of the laws of the Commonwealth than that of the Agents-General, who are servants of the States - States which, as I said, have no love for the Commonwealth. I trust that, as far as practicable, we shall prevent the introduction of contract labour to take the bread out of the mouths of those already engaged in the industries of the Commonwealth. I trust that this Bill will prevent the introduction of labour under contract unless a thorough inquiry into the terms of each contract shows it to be fair and equitable to those to whom we are responsible - the people of Australia. Some honorable members opposite have become so saturated with Imperialistic notions that they consider that there is a country greater than Australia to which, by virtue of the oath they have taken, they owe their first duty. I echo the words of the Prime Minister,, that it is about time we ceased talking of people far away, and said a word or two for Australia.
– The people whom the honorable member left behind when he came to Australia.
– And I should not be prepared to bring them here under conditions that would not be creditable.
– Does the honorable member think that there is a better country to which they could come?
– With all its faults, there is no country offering greater opportunities for the energetic, industrious, and determined man.
– Then why shut out the people of Great Britain?
– The honorable member is under a delusion. We are not proposing to shut out any desirable immigrant, nor have we done so. Honorable members opposite, with a desire, no doubt, to avoid giving offence to the people before whom they will go next year have said that they are in favour of preventing the introduction of men under contract to compete on unequal terms with the workers already here. That is what this Bill is designed to prevent. All that we say is that it should be proved that men coming here under contract desire to land for no other purpose than to take their place among the workers of Australia, and without departing from the existing conditions of labour and rates of pay. Beyond giving effect to that intention, the Bill is simply an interpretation of the duties of the Minister.
– The Bill makes it the duty of the Minister to ascertain whether a man who comes here- is going to compete with a man of equal ability already in the Commonwealth.
-That may seem strange to the honorable member; but who is to decide the point, if not the Minister ?
– The man who finds the money to pay the immigrant.
– He will be a very, unreliable authority,, if he is getting an advantage from the arrangement.
– What advantage would he get by importing unsuitable men if he were paying full rates of wages.
– We know that there are many ways in which the provisions of contracts relating to rates of wages may be evaded. I am surprised that an honorable gentleman of so much experience should pretend to think it impossible to evade such contracts. The Bill empowers the Minister to ascertain whether the immigrant will take the place of equally skilled labour already available within the Commonwealth. I have heard it asked, how is it to be ascertained whether such labour is available ? If honorable members knew anything of the position of unions elsewhere they would not ask that question. While in Australia, where there are so many opponents of unionism, of arbitration, and of all measures tending to ameliorate the lot of the workers, doubts are thrown upon the bona fides of the unions, in other countries, such as Germany, unionism is so highly respected, even by its bitterest opponents, that the bulk of men in every trade belong to unions, and when workmen are required employers never dream of doing anything else but applying to the unions for the assistance which they require, and the unions are regarded as the best judges of the skilfulness of their members. If the Prime Minister requires to know what men of skill are available in .any trade, the only way in which he can obtain the information is by applying to those whose duty it is to keep a record of the workers in each trade. I have watched the progress of unionism since 1880, and I think that the unions deserve greater powers and better treatment than they are receiving. The more we trust them and extend their powers, the more we shall do towards- removing causes of friction between employers and employes. 1 regret that there has been this long debate, because there is practically no opposition to the measure, and I shall merely add that I see no objection to clause 7, which provides that -
Any officer appointed under the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 or any Officer of Customs may ask any immigrant before he lands in the Commonwealth whether he has come to Australia under a contract agreement to perform manual labour in Australia and the immigrant shall truly answer the question.
A similar question is put to immigrants entering the United. States. To-night the honorable member for Wentworth quoted the Canadian Act, with a copy of which the deputy leader of the Opposition had supplied him for the purposes of argument.
– I said that the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne had overlooked that Act. and he admitted that he had never seen it before.
– The honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne at least understands any subject that he may be speaking about, and what he says is original, and not mere repetition.
– He admitted that he had not! seen the Canadian Act.
– If he had not seen any Act his speech would have been better worth hearing than a speech delivered by the honorable member after he had read every Act passed since the time of Adam. When the Canadian Act was quoted, honorable members opposite cried out “That distinguishes between foreigners and aliens and our own kith and kin.” But in Canada and America. I venture to say. the provisions of the law are stricter than the regulations which will be enforced under this Bill. In any case, we must consider the interests of Australia first of all, and not be guided wholly bv what has been done in England, in Canada, or in America. We should so mould our laws that they will benefit the people whom we represent?, by preserving their rights and privileges, and I trust that in this case the House will show that it has the wisdom and knowledge necessary to do more than merely imitate the laws of other parts of the world.
– I do not desire to do more than indicate in. a few words the view I take of this measure, and of one or two amendments which I think might be made with profit when we reach the Committee stage. The discussion to-day has legitimately ranged over a wide area, dealing not merely with the measure before the Chair, but also with the cognate subject of immigration into Australia, and the inducements that could be held out to other white folk to join our ranks, and to assist us in developing our resources. In that connexion, some references have been made to the statements of the Agents-General, and the observations of Earl Jersey. With regard to the remarks of the Agents- General, it seems to me that one may reasonably offer two com ments. One is that they have stated what is a fact, and the other is that they have drawn an inference from it with which one may or may not agree. They have stated that Australian legislation, and the Australian attitude towards the outside world, had resulted in a loss of Australian popularity in the old country. Whether or not we agree with the reasons assigned, there is no use in denying the fact. Earl Jersey, whose remarks have been quoted to the contrary, himself says, amongst other things, that - undoubtedly there have been a good many criticisms of Australia written in the press, which have had the effect, to a certain extent, of pulling down Australia in the minds of the British people.
Then he goes on to point out that this influence has not operated to the extent that might be imagined, not because people have not accepted the criticisms, but because many have not seen them. That is to say, those who have read the criticisms have had their opinion of Australia diminished by what they have read, but a great many people have not read the criticisms, and have not formed any opinion on the’ subject. Then he goes on to say -
Perhaps for the moment there is some feeling of hesitation in England about Australia.
Then he remarks -
I think that there is no doubt that a certain case of Australian administration - one that was quoted so much, and was used so much as an illustration - has been repeated to the detriment of Australia, but I do not think it has deterred the right class of people from emigrating.
Then he points out the reasons why emigrants do not come to Australia. It seems to me that, rightly or wrongly, certain legislation and administrative acts under it have caused a feeling among those who do take notice of, or an interest in, Australian affairs, that we do not want immigrants to come here.
– Has not that feeling been brought about by misrepresentations?
– I am now dealing with the results. I do not say whether the representations made were fair or not. No doubt many of them have been unfair. But the facts are related, and they point to one or two inferences. One is that we grudge admission to immigrants. This inference has most frequently been drawn, and it has been the subject of much exaggeration. The fact remains that if a skilled worker wants to come to us under agreement, it has to be shown, to the satisaction of the Minister, that a particular employer wants him for particular skilled work. My impression of the intention of the section was not in accordance with the interpretation placed upon it by some of those responsible for its administration. My view was that upon its being shown that the skilled labour proposed to be introduced was of a character suitable to Australia, the immigrants would be allowed to come here as a matter of course. Misconceptions have arisen in connexion with that legislation, and I am heartily glad that the Government have introduced the measure for the purpose of removing, not only misconception, but also all reasonable possibilities of misconception and opportunities for misrepresentation. It is because I do not think that the measure goes as far as it could with safety in this regard, that I wish to offer a few friendly criticisms. I take it that we are all agreed upon two points - First, that we will not have any legislation which would enable one side in an industrial difficulty to use outside sources to defeat its opponents-that we will not allow the employing class to introduce cheaper or even equally well paid labour from elsewhere for the purpose of defeating any individual or collection of individuals with whom they may be in conflict; especially as, in allprobability, each side is partly in the wrong. Neither side to an industrial dispute has ever been able to justly claim that its side was absolutely right, and that the other side was wholly wrong. I object to that chance being given to employers to utilize a form of boycott, because I am opposed to boycotting of any kind. Therefore, we must not let our legislation assume such a shape as to expose us to that danger. Very effective provision for this contingency is made in one of the sub-clauses of clause 5, and in clause 9, which allows the GovernorGeneral to gazette a general prohibition when industrial disputes are in existence or in contemplation. Those words, “ in contemplation,’’ confer very wide powers indeed. In the second place, we desire to make sure that every contract immigrant shall come to us under conditions equal to those pervailing in the trade in which he is to engage. It must be remembered that the greater portion of the contract immigrants, will be skilled artisans, as contrasted with unskilled labourers, and we must make sure that workers are not introduced here in order to undercut those already in Australia.
– Does the honorable member know that the States Governments are the worst of non-union employers ? The Amalgamated Engineers cannot secure from them the same wages that are paid by outside employers.
– Although I think it is a pity that the States Governments do not pay as good wages as are given by outside employers. I do not consider that that matter is exactly germane to the point to which I am addressing myself. My point is that no contract immigrant should come in on worse terms than any man in Australia can get in a fair bargain with an employer under existing labour conditions in this country; and there is a sub-clause in one of the clauses which covers that ground. To enable men to be brought in to undercut those already here would be another and very effective form of boycott. But whenwe have provided for these two matters we have provided for essentials, and anything more we put in the measure should be mere machinery for insuring that these essentials are secured. The Bill as it stands does go further than that in some respects. For example, paragraph b of sub-clause 2 of clause 5 presents a question which it is impossible for any Minister to reasonably and satisfactorily decide. After all, why should not an employer choose his employe, if he likes, provided the labour conditions are complied with, and there is no attempt to seize the opportunity to exercise a boycott or take advantage in view, or in the midst, of an industrial dispute? In the same way, it seems to me that sub-clause 4 of the same clause imposes an unnecessary restriction. That sub-clause provides that the Minister shall not approve of a contract unless he does so before the contract immigrant lands. I do not see any use in that provision, because the very next clause provides all sorts of penalties - though I do not think penalties should be provided as against the contract immigrant - if the employer lands an immigrant before the contract has been approved. Personally, I think there is a still more effective way of preventing undercutting contracts. This way has already been suggested, I believe, by several honorable members, and it is that a stipendiary magistrate, in a court of summary jurisdiction, shall have power to amend a contract so as to bring it into accord with current rates, and compel the employer to abide by the altered conditions. That would be the most effective way conceivable to insure that an employer shall not make, or try to make, contracts at less than the regular rates. An employer would know that, as soon as the immigrant arrived and started work, he, on finding what the conditions here were, could go to the nearest court and secure those conditions for himself. The fact that a remedy could so easily be found would be one of the best deterrents against employers imposing other than the prevailing conditions. It would be a much easier method than compelling people in Western Australia or in Northern Queensland to apply to a Minister administering his Department in Melbourne or Dalgety. The centralizing of everything in the Minister is, in my view, one way to make this measure so cumbersome that it will not work easily, and will indirectly defeat the object it professes to achieve.
– How could the Minister ascertain whether an immigrant is competent or not?
– I do not see how the Minister will be able to determine whether there is in Australia another worker of at least equal skill and ability with the contract immigrant, whose contract must be approved before he lands in Australia. While the immigrant’ is on the sea or in
England the Minister has to determine whether there is in Australia another worker of at least equal skill and ability with an unknown person. It is of no use to give the Minister an impossible task - not even a Minister of the ability of the present occupant of the office. Those restrictions I should not quarrel with for a moment if I felt that the object could not be achieved in a different way. But, having laid down the main principle in a measure of this kind, we should, in providing machinery, avoid cumbering it with a single unnecessary detail. I regard clause 7 as a provision necessary to enable the object of the Bill to be attained. That object is a good one, and may be achieved, provided we do not load and render the measure inoperative with unnecessary restrictions, and so long as we remove the misapprehensions, just and unjust, that exist in the old country.It, is desirable that we in Australia should, as far as possible, without departing from our ideals in regard to legislation, endeavour to remove those misapprehensions, and therefore I trust that the very reasonable amendments suggested by honorable members will meet with acceptance by the Government when we go into Committee. As I said before, I should prefer to see the Bill framed so that, after an agreement has been filed with the Department, an opportunity to rectify wrongs in the contract shall be left with some more easily and more quickly moved authority than the Minister of a Department stationed at one place in the Commonwealth. I recognise that to alter the Bill in the direction suggested would mean a very considerable amount of amendment and modification, not of its principle, but of its scheme of working. I therefore do not propose to move strenuously in that direction ; but I suggest to the Government the strong advisability of considering the modification of some of the details. It is a pity to spoil a good measure - which will, I think, largely attain its object - by one or two irritating details which will afford an excuse for a continuation of the criticism of which we in Australia have already complained - criticism that will not be removed by mere assertions that it is incorrect, but only by legislative proof that whenever we see good reasons, even though we think the statements exaggerated or unfair, the cause will, if possible, be removed.
– Does the honorable and learned member not think that we are endeavouring to live too much on the smiles of other people?
– I do not think so. As a matter of fact, we in Australia do in many respects live on the smiles of Great Britain.
– I do not think we do.
– But for our being a portion of the British Empire we should find ourselves compulsorily much more heavily taxed in order to provide, amongst other things, for our own protection.
– The sooner we are taught that we have to protect ourselves the better.
– That is another question ; but so long as we accept all these benefits we must, in common fairness, take them into consideration. I hope in the notdistant future that, from the over-crowded acres of the old country, we shall see a stream of immigration through Australia as through Canada.
– I have no objection.
– We cannot expect that stream of immigration if we create a feeling in the old country that we do not want immigrants. We have to let the people abroad know that we want them ; and, for that’ reason, we should remove every possible cause of pin-pricks and irritation. That is the policy we must pursue in order to create such a recognition of our good fellowship and good-will, as will induce people to turn, first, their thoughts, and then their footsteps to our shores. I speak thus, not from mere sentiment, but in consequence of the practical necessities of the case. If comparatively small grounds do afford cause for a feeling of. irritation, and if their removal will not interfere with the principle, or affect the administration of the measure, we should be acting in mere obstinacy if we retained them. Consequently, in a perfectly friendly way, suggestions have been made to the Government in the hope that they will be adopted. We believe that with these amendments the object with which we heartily sympathize will be Achieved - that nothing will be lost, and no dangers created, but that, on the contrary, the measure will work more satisfactorily than it otherwise would. We must remember that pin-pricks often develop into serious grievances. If we do not afford an opportunity for the pin-pricks, we shall not have the serious grievances. Therefore I trust that this Bill, which in the main meets with my cordial approval, will in Committee be amended in the direction that I have indicated. I must frankly add that, unless some such alterations are made, the measure will, in my judgment, accomplish more harm than good. In its present form it does not increase the facilities for the admission of contract immigrants of the right class As a matter of fact, it does not render their admission any easier than it is, although it puts the position in a clearer form. If it be passed without amendment, I very much fear that the points in it which will attract attention elsewhere will not be the opportunities which it offers for desirable immigrants to come to Australia, but the disabilities which are imposed upon contract labourers who wish to enter the Commonwealth under fair conditions of labour, and without in any way interfering with industrial disputes, irrespective of whether they are threatened or are actually in existence. The effect of that would be to make people say that Australia has re-affirmed her attitude of exclusiveness and hostility towards those people.
– I am very glad that this Bill has been introduced, because it means more of the “ open door.” When the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 was under consideration, I understood that the contract labour clause was only to be brought into operation in case of an actual or threatened strike. I venture to say that if we had then foreseen the developments which have since taken place, that provision would have been subjected to a much closer scrutiny. At the last general election I was ashamed of the defence of that legislation which I was obliged to make to’ my constituents. > I had to point out that it should operate only in times of strike, when, as a matter of fact, it has operated at other times. In my opinion, both the six hatters and the six potters were illegally, but very properly, admitted to the Commonwealth. The administration of the law had to be strained to admit them; but I am very glad that they were admitted. I support this Bill because it contemplates a step towards populating our country. with white people. If any honorable member will move to add to clause jj, which provides that the Act shall not be construed to apply to domestic servants or personal attendants accompanying their employers to Australia, the words, “ or saving during a time of threatened or actual industrial disputes to any white British subject,” I shall support him.
– The honorable and learned member is making a good speech.
– -The commendation of the honorable member for Kooyong alarms me. Even if individual cases of hardship result from limiting the operation of the contract provision to times of actual or threatened strike, it seems to me that the public safety constitutes the supreme law. What we want to attract is a white population, and if we can secure it from our own kith and kin oversea, we ought to welcome it. There is not the slightest doubt that no white man has been excluded from the Commonwealth as the result of the operation of the contract section of the Immigration Restriction Act; but I would remind honorable members of the words which the Prime Minister used in speaking of the application of that legislation to coloured people. He said that it was not so much the people who had been excluded by it upon their, arrival here whom we had to consider, but the number who had been deterred from coming here by reason of it. Similarly with regard to contract immigrants. I am afraid that the provision in paragraph b of clause 6, which provides that if, before the Minister approves of the terms of his contract, a contract immigrant lands in Australia, he shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding ^5. would create a condition of panic amongst persons in England who may desire to come to Australia. If a contract labourer wishing ro improve his position entered the Commonwealth, and was fined ^5 for so doing, it would take a long time for us to overcome the feeling of resentment which would be thereby created. If the six hatters or the six potters had been fined and in default had been committed to gaol, a condition of affairs would have arisen which it is impossible for us to imagine. I certainly hope that that provision will be excised. It has been stated that only people who enjoy similar conditions to those prevailing in Australia should be allowed to enter the Commonwealth. But I would point out that if a resident of the old country already enjoyed- similar conditions, he would not desire to come to Australia. It requires a good deal of determination for a man to come such a long distance and to face new conditions of life. There is no doubt that emigration from England and immigration to Australia is a very big plunge in life, and a very great experiment, and consequently only the inducement of better conditions will influence people. I am sorry that the Bill does not go as far as I would like, although I must admit that it is ari improvement upon the existing law. We have heard a good deal of talk recently in regard to the slanders upon Australia. I hold in my hand a paragraph from the Sydney Morning Herald, of 28th October, 1904, which relates to a notorious slanderer. According to that journal, the right honorable member for East Sydney, speaking at a public meeting, said -
Yet we got nervous if we heard of a- man coming out from the old country. When six artisans arrived off the coast, the whole of the genius of the first Federal Parliament was bent to the task of deciding whether they should land.
I should like to ask honorable members of the Opposition whether that is a fair statement of the Australian view of immigration? Whether we pass, or reject this Bill, such misrepresentations will continue to be made. We may expect them to be made by certain people who think more of other countries than they do of Australia. But it is unfortunate that they should be uttered by members of this House, inasmuch as they are by that means given more prominence than is desirable. There are some people who are always ready to malign progressive legislation, and the Legislature responsible for it. I shall vote for the second reading of the Bill, but in Committee shall do all that I can to open the door still wider to white Britishers.
– I should not have spoken, but for certain remarks made by two or three honorable members who have taken part in this debate. One of the greatest traducers of the Immigration Restriction Act was Sir Horace Tozer, a. paid servant of the Commonwealth, who made a great deal of capital out of the fact that he was not allowed to land a lady’s maid in Australia until he had entered into an undertaking that she would leave the country at the close of her engagement here. Having heard him deal with this question, and also with an incident relating to a work of art. for which a Royal personage was responsible, I asked him on the Brisbane railway station how he would amend the Act. . Notwithstanding that he had been verv busy interpreting it to the detriment of the Commonwealth, he replied that he would not alter a single line or letter of its provisions, so far as they related to males, but that he would amend those relating to domestic servants and other female workers. Whatever Australia has suffered, owing to the operation of the Act which we are now proposing to amend, has been due to a want of patriotism, and not to any inherent fault in the Act itself. It was well framed, and was designed to make Australia a place of refuge for the distressed and deserving of other parts of the world ; but it has been held up to the people as a measure by which we seek to make Australia an exclusive preserve for those already here. I do not suppose that there is any honorable member, not to say any party, in this House, who has no desire to see Australia’s millions of idle acres occupied by millions of hands ready to work them; but at the same time we wish to see those acres occupied by men who will respect the conditions which the people of Australia have fought hard to secure and maintain. It has been said that we should throw open our ports to the white races of Europe, but there are some white men whose presence here would be just as inimical to the best interests of the white workers of Australia as would be that of the Japanese. For instance, whilst I should welcome the Italians from the north of Italy, who make good citizens, there are men who come from other parts of Italy with an organ and a monkey, and as soon as they make a little money enter the fruit business, and undersell their competitors. In every city in the Commonwealth we find Italians not doing much hard work, but monopolizing the fruit trade. There are white races in various parts of Europe who would flock here if we threw open our ports, but would not help to build up the sturdy race that we desire. I shall vote for the second reading, not because I think the Bill is necessary, but because I believe that advantage has been taken of the provisions of the existing Act to traduce Australia, and so to keep thousands away from our shores. I do not agree with the honorable and learned member for Corio that the six hatters, the six potters, or others who were not undesirable immigrants, were kept out of Australia.
– I said that they were illegally admitted.
– Mr. Anderson, who entered into the contract with the six hatters, had only to comply with the Commonwealth law in order to secure their introduction without the slightest delay. Surely we should not have allowed one man to set himself up against the law, and to defy the Commonwealth. The Government of the day acted rightly in compelling him to observe the law. Whether the law be right or wrong, it must be administered as it stands. I have only to say, in conclusion, that I hope that when the Bill is taken into Committee it will be made a little more stringent, for I fear that the Government have erred a little on the side of generosity.
– The Prime Minister might now consent to an adjournment, as we have worked a thirteenhours’ shift.
– Not at this stage of the session.
– If the honorable and learned gentleman will accept the second reading of the Bill, I shall sit down at once.
– I am willing to accept the second reading, but we must go on with the Bill.
– Right through Committee?
– Yes; we have no time to spare.
– I have a decided objection to prolonging the debate, but there are some matters contained in this Bill to which I should like to allude. In my experience, long sittings are not conducive to the progress of business.
– I ask the honorable member to discuss the Bill.
– I move-
That the debate be now adjourned.
If the Prime Minister will accept the second reading of the Bill, and take the Committee stage to-morrow, I shall withdraw the motion.
Question put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr. McWILLIAMS (Franklin). - I regret that I am compelled to address myself to this Bill at so late an hour of the night.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In Committee :
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Paragraph g of section three, and the whole of section eleven of the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 are repealed.
– I move -
That after the words “ paragraph g “ the words “and paragraph k” be inserted.
I move this amendment because it was the intention of the House that paragraph gof section 3 of the Immigration Restriction Act should apply to crews of oversea vessels, who are engaged in the coastal trade. I do not think it necessary to repeat what I said in my speech on the second reading of the Bill. If the Prime Minister will refer to the printed correspondence, he will find that Mr. Guthrie, the secretary of the Seamen’s Union, was thoroughly convinced that the intention of Sir Malcolm McEacharn was that the shipowners, as well as the seamen, ought to be protected against the unfair competition of oversea vessels. Writing to the then Prime Minister, Sir Edmund Barton, Mr. Guthrie said -
There can be no doubt as to the intention of Parliament, the issue being plainly put by the honorable the Attorney-General, Hansard, page 5370. “ The case of crews of those vessels which leave our waters is provided for in paragraph j - this became paragraph k of the Act - We do not require to deal with them. But we have the case of a vessel coming out with a crew under contract from abroad. The vessel and crew being both required to be engaged thereafter in the coastal trade in Australia, they come within the scope of the Commonwealth law. They will be prohibited immigrants - unless we provide that they are paid not less than the ruling rate of wages in Australian waters.”
That opinion was indorsed by the honorable and learned member for Angas, who, at page 3372 of Hansard, said -
As we have not the amendments before us in print, it is difficult to understand what its effect will be. I take it, however, that if a P. and O. steamer, coming from England, took goods from Fremantle to Sydney, the rate of wages paid to the crew would have to be the rate prevailing in the Commonwealth.
Sir Malcolm McEacharn spoke even more plainly. He said -
Vessels come out here at times with their crews engaged at lower rates of wages, and compete on this coast with vessels on which the rates current in Australia are paid.
– Is not that already provided for in sub-clausej?
– I do not think so. Then again, the clause might prevent a ship-owner bringing out his vessel under contract at rates of wages existing in England. This amendment is to provide that as soon as vessels come on to the coastal trade here, the crew shall be paid the rates of wages ruling on the coast.
That was equally the intention of honorable members, and injustice has been done to the seamen and ship-owners of Australia by the interpretation which has been placed on paragraph k by the law officers of the Crown. That interpretation has allowed oversea vessels to engage in the coastal trade of Australia, to the disadvantage of local ship-owners and local seamen. We can, however, remedy matters by. repealing paragraph k. I have made it clear that it was the intention of the framers of the principal Act that oversea vessels, if permitted to engage in the coastal trade of Australia, should carry crews receiving the rates of wages prevailing on the coast. I expect to be met with the objection that this is not the proper place to do what I propose shall be done, and that the matter should be dealt with in the Navigation Bill.
– It is too big a question to be dealt with in this Bill.
– I am surprised to hear a Labour member say that. The time to assist the workers is when one has the opportunity to do so.
– The honorable member could only partially do now what he wishes to do.
– We can do in this Bill what could be done in the Navigation Bill. An eminent legal authority has stated that the interpretation placed on paragraph k is a wrong one. I appeal to the honorable member for Parramatta to support my amendment, because no one has declared himself more anxious to do the fair thing to the workers of Australia.
– There is no fairness or reasonableness about the present proceedings. They are a degrading display of brute force.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– Force of some kind must be used, or the Opposition will allow no work to be done.
– That is not accurate. Have not others the same right to speak as the honorable member has. No one spoke so long as he did in the debate on the second reading.
– I spoke for about an hour, but I never trouble the House unless I have something to say. If the honorable member were to speak only when he had something to say, we should never hear his voice in this Chamber. I am sure that every honorable member who was present when the Immigration Restriction Bill was being considered believed that it required oversea vessels trading on the coast to pay local rates of wages. We are not proposing to exclude British vessels, or even foreign vessels, from our coastal trade; but we say that they should not compete unfairly with local ship-owners and seamen.
– Paragraph k contains a provision which- is necessary for the transaction of shipping business within the Commonwealth. Itpermitsthe masters and crews of vessels, other than public vessels, to land in any port of the Commonwealth, notwithstanding the prohibition contained in the first part of section 3 of the Immigration Restriction Act.
– It allows them to land, but not to work here.
– They do not work here.
– They work in the coastal trade.
– They are not working when they are ashore. If the honorable member’s amendment were carried, they would be prohibited even from landing, and the prohibition would apply, not only to the crews of British and foreign vessels engaged in our coastal trade, but also to the crews of oversea vessels touching at only one port of the Commonwealth. The honorable member does not desire to bring that about.
– No; but what I wish to do can be done very simply.
– If I were to pursue the matter further I should be able to show the honorable member that the amendment would not accomplish his purpose. It could be evaded. I quite recognise that this matter is one of long standing, to which the honorable member and others have called attention. It has been the subject of consideration by the Navigation Commission now sitting, which, I believe, has framed recommendations with a view to the settlement of the difficulty. I think that the honorable member’s object can be accomplished only by embodying provisions, probably of some complexity, in a Navigation Act. The effect of striking out paragraph k would be to cripple shipping which the honorable member does not desire to prevent from trading on our coast. Under these circumstances, I hope that he will not press his amendment.
– It is almost unnecessary for me to state that this matter is being carefully discussed by the Navigation Commission, the members of which realize how complicated it is.
– It is a matter of A B C.
– The members of the Commission have gone into the question very thoroughly, andI trust that the honorable member will accent my assurance that they desire to do justice to those in whose interests he is moving.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw his amendment. If he persists in calling for a division he will be defeated by a large majority, and I fear that a false impression will be created outside the House. In common with the other members of the Labour Party I am prepared, when the proper time comes, to give the fullest consecration to thequestion of protecting Australian seamen and ship-owners against unfair competition. The question is too important to be dealt with by means of the amendment proposed by the honorable member. If he wishes to serve the interests of the seamen - as we allbelieve he does - he will be well advised if he withdraws his amendment.
Mr. HUTCHISON (Hindmarsh).- It is quite evident that there is no likelihood of my being able to carry my amendment. There is no doubt in my mind or in that of an eminent counsel-
– The Minister is telling the honorable member to back down, and he is going to do it.
– No Minister has ever succeeded in making me back down. I am not here to obey the behests of other individuals, as are some honorable membets. I challenge the honorable member to show that I have ever acted at the dictation of a Minister, or of members of my own party, when I have differed from them. The only back-down I have witnessed during the last few days has been that of the Opposition. I was delighted to see that they had the sense to back down when they were beaten. I am not going, to back down. I propose to ask the Prime Minister for a definite assurance. There is no doubt in my own mind, or in the minds of the seamen - who comprise men thoroughly acquainted with the whole of our navigation laws - that the intention of the provision in the Act was to protect our local seamen and ship-owners. But that object has not been achieved owing to the interpretation of the law adopted by the Crown law officers. I now wish to know from the Prime Minister whether he is of opinion that the seamen employed in oversea vessels which engage in our coastal trade, should be paid the same rate of wages that rule in the Commonwealth. If he can assure me that he is in sympathy with what is declared in paragraph g, and that he will do all he can to see that provision is made for the protection of seamen in our navigation laws, I shall be satisfied to withdraw my amendment.
– There is no need for me to give any such assurance. If the honorable member will look at the Navigation Bill he will find that ample provision is made in the direction he desires. He has no need to appeal to me for an expression of opinion upon a matter with regard to which I have not altered my views since that measure was introduced.
Amendment, bv leave, withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Every contract immigrant, unless otherwise prohibited by law, may land in the Commonwealth if the contract is in writing, and is made by or on behalf of some person named in the contract and resident in Australia, and its terms are approved by the Minister.
– I wish to protest against the Government proceeding, any further to-night. Honorable members upon this side of the Chamber have gone home in the full belief that the House would rise after the Bill had been read a second time.
– I rise to a point of order. The remarks of the honorable member would be applicable only to a motion to report progress, which he would not be permitted to discuss. His observations have no relation to the clause now before the Chair.
– The question before the Chair is whether or not clause 4 should be agreed to.
– This clause ought not to be passed until honorable members are in a fit condition to vote on it, and after full deliberation. Further, an opportunity ought to be given to honorable members who are now absent to express their opinion on the clause. Some on this side have gone home to-night in the full belief that this clause would not be reached. After consulting with members of the Government, these honorable members were given to understand that it was only intended to pass the second reading. Amongst the honorable members who have gone away is the honorable member for Macquarie, who did so after consulting with the VicePresident of the Executive Council.
– The honorable member for Macquarie got no assurance of that description from me.
– The honorable member for Macquarie went1 away after receiving, I admit, no assurance, but in the firm belief, after talking with the VicePresident of the Executive Council, that only the second reading of the Bill would be passed.
– I said no more than that I would accept no responsibility in regard to the matter.
– We have been discussing this Bill for over fourteen hours, and, after so long ai period in the atmosphere of this Chamber, I do not think that honorable members are in a fit state to give proper consideration to this measure. The debate has been equally divided about the House, and this is too important a matter for hasty consideration. All we on this side can do, however, is to enter a protest. I say emphatically that this is not legislation, but is the exercise of brutal, degrading force, with a view to bludgeoning through proposals which ought to be considered carefully in reasonable hours. If anything could add to the degradation which the Prime Minister has m already heaped upon his head during this session, it is his conduct now.
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in making those remarks.
– A clause like this, which is the pivot clause of the Bill, so far as declaration of principle is concerned, should be voted on in a Committee as far as possible fully representative of the House. I ascertained only a few minutes ago that, through a misapprehension, an honorable member who is in favour of certain amendments that are to be proposed has been claimed as a pair for the Government.
– It is a misapprehension which amounts to downright trickery.
– I am afraid that we are violating a standing order recently passed, which provides that on the question of adjournment there shall be no discussion. I think the honorable member for Corinella will see (hat no good purpose will be served by continuing the discussion.
– I had not finished even one sentence when you. sir. interposed.
– It is not so much the speech of the honorable and learned member, as the feeling that has been aroused, to which exception may be taken.
– Surely my speech did not arouse any feeling. All I said was that I had become aware of a misapprehension.
– I am very loth to do so, but I take the responsibility of telling the honorable and learned member that his remarks are out of order.
– Then I desire to make a personal explanation, which I believe will be in order. You have said, sir, that my remarks have aroused feeling, and I wish to point out that what I said could not possibly have had that effect. What I said was that I had become aware that, through a misapprehension, a certain member had been claimed as a pair for the Government, although that member is in favour of certain amendments that have been suggested. I negative the idea that there was anything more than a misapprehension, because I happen to know how the misapprehension arose. I think that the honorable member for Bourke will bear me out that it was a pure misapprehension.
– The honorable member is going beyond the question.
– I am endeavouring to point out that it is incorrect to say that my statement aroused feeling.
– If the honorable and learned member will permit me, I shall withdraw that remark as having reference to anything he has said.
– I was about to suggest that this clause should not be passed unless it was quite clear that the will of this Chamber was being expressed - that no proposal would be passed or rejected contrary to the desire, the actual desire, of the majority.
– Is it not the business of honorable members to be here?
– I do not think it is at this hour of the night. I did not arrive here until 5 o’clock this evening, and I shall not arrive any earlier on any day for the rest of the session.
– I think the honorable member is going beyond clause 4, which has nothing to do with the time he intends to arrive at the House.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister, through you, whether he does not agree that it is reasonable that the real views of honorable members should be expressed either directly or indirectly in a division on a question of this kind ?
– I think that the clause has the same opportunity of being considered as it would have if there were the full quota of members present. There may be some difference in the actual number of votes recorded, but I do not think there will be any difference in the actual decision. Honorable members cannot suppose that it is any pleasure for me to stop here until This hour ; and I mav say that it is less_ desirable for me to be here at the present moment than it has been on any other occasion when there has been a late sitting. I am here because, rightly or wrongly, I believe it to be my duty to be here, and to ask honorable members to remain for work. A request of this kind would not be made by me at any other period of the session, when, of course, it would be unreasonable; but if honorable members really mean what so many have said, that it is (highly desirable to close the session by Christmas, or soon after, and that we shall, as we must, complete our business before that time, it is absolutely necessary to have such sittings. At the present time, in practically every Parliament of Australia, late sittings are taking place - all are endeavouring to bring their business to a conclusion. We have discussed this Bill all day, and many honorable members have discussed amendments which are to be submitted.
– I merely pointed out that there has been one mistake ; and there may be others.
– As honorable members know, neither the Government nor anybody else, so far as I am aware, are responsible for the mistake. At this stage of the session, and with the business before us, it is absolutely necessary either to have late sittings or unduly prolong the session. The Committee, I believe, know their own mind on the subject of this clause, and we can complete the consideration of the Bill if we direct our attention fairly to it, and not to side-issues.
– The Prime Minister will remember that during the second-reading debate, honorable members on this side suggested that in Committee we might well settle the difference of opinion as to method. Both sides are agreed practically to shut out contract immigrants under two different categories. But we on this side hold that we might very easily deal with any illegal contract in an ordinary Police Court, and with that one exception throw Australia open to the admission of white persons from over sea. The Government held that the adoption of that course was impracticable. I desire to test that question to-night. Should the division result in the defeat of the Government, will the Prime Minister consent to report progress, so that we may have an opportunity to recast the measure?
– The concluding words of this clause form the crux of it. I contend that they give the Minister power to absolutely prohibit all contract immigration. The Minister has, merely to express an opinion unfavorable to any contract to prevent a contract immigrant “from entering the Commonwealth. Under the circumstances, it is fair that the consideration of this clause should be postponed until there is a larger attendance of honorable members, and until a more reasonable hour. After sitting here for such a prolonged period, the faculties of honorable members are not as alert as they would otherwise be. Consequently, I move -
That the consideration of this clause be postponed until to-morrow.
– I am afraid that it is, not competent for the honorable member to do that, because the Committee may not be sitting to-morrow.
– Then I move-
That the consideration of the clause be postponed until after the consideration of the remaining clauses of the Bill.
Several honorable members have gone to their homes in the confident belief that the House would adjourn after the second reading of the Bill had been carried.
– Where did they get that belief?
– That was the impression which they derived from conversation with Ministerial supporters.
– Without authority.
– I do not say that any specific promise to that effect was made. But the fact remains that as the result of conversation with honorable members who are in close touch with the Government, they were induced to believe that the House would adjourn immediately the second reading of the measure had been agreed to. Then I understand that a difficulty is being experienced in securing a pair for a member of the Opposition to whom a pair is always granted. I am perfectly certain that even at great physical discomfort that honorable member would have remained had he known that a pair would not be forthcoming.
– That difficulty has now been overcome.
– At any rate, that was the situation which obtained until a few minutes ago. A few days ago, when the Prime Minister spoke of the necessity for holding longer sittings, he led us to believe, inferentially, that if the House met at 10.30 a.m., we might expect to adjourn at a reasonable hour in the evening. He even mentioned11 p.m. or 11.30 p.m. A statement of that kind may reasonably be regarded as a promise that we would not be expected to sit here all night. Another reason why the clause should be postponed is that the officers in attendance in this House are being sweated day after day in a fashion which is altogether unjustifiable.
– Such reasons as the honorable member is now giving cannot be advanced in support of the postponement of the clause, because if the clause is postponed there will be nothing to prevent the Committee going on with the Bill.
– If the clause is postponed, until after the consideration of other clauses, honorable members who have gone away under a misapprehension as to the business to be done to-night may be. present when it is again discussed. It is a degradation of Parliament for the Government to attempt to bludgeon this measure through Committee in the way proposed.
– I think that the clause ought to be postponed. It is one of the most important clauses of the Bill, and we should not be asked to consider it when we haveN been wearied by the strain of a long sitting. It would be better to postpone this and other important clauses of the Bill, even though that should make it necessary that we should .sit after Christmas, because we might then escape the injury to the health of honorable members which must ensue if such demands as the present are made upon them. In view of the fact that no resistance was offered to the proposal to lengthen the sittings of the House, I have been very much surprised at the action taken by the Government.
– I am not here for die purpose of wasting time. And I hope I may be allowed to suggest to the Prime Minister the desirability of postponing the more important clauses of this Bill. There is no reason why we should not now agree to pass the non-contentious clauses of the measure, and let those on which there is a division of opinion be considered to-morrow. We are dealing with a measure proposing the amendment of legislation, the administration of which has brought the Commonwealth into disrepute in the past, and seeing that we have been, here since half-past 10 o’clock ves.terday morning, the Prime Minister might reasonably accept the suggestion I make.
Mr. SYDNEY SMITH (Macquarie).I trust that the Government will agree to the postponement of this clause. I left the House and went home some time ago under the impression that there would be an adjournment after the debate on the second reading had been brought to a conclusion. Fortunately, I telephoned to find out what was being done, and I then thought it my duty to return to the House. Good reasons have been given by the honorable member for Lang for the postponement of the clause. I refrained from speaking on the motion for the second reading of the Bill, because of my desire to expedite business, but I shall feel it necessary to give reasons in Committee for the course that I intend to take. I trust that wiser counsels will prevail1. If honorable members -wished to block business they could do so; but they have no such desire. Like other honorable members, I wish to see the session brought to a close as speedily as possible, but the action of the Government may tend to prolong it.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella).- There are many reasons why this clause should bepostponed.
– We are agreed as to the principle involved ; can Ave not reachfinality ?
– If I were satisfied that honorable members would be correctly and” fully represented in any division that might take place I should not object.
– Is it a question of pairs ?’
– It is. For instance, thehonorable member for Oxley and the honorable member for Parkes will not be represented.
– We can find a pair for the honorable member for Oxley.
– If I am assured thathonorable members will be properly represented, and that no snatch, vote will betaken, I shall be satisfied. Some honorable members who supported the second” reading of the Bill have left for their homes, and their views on this clause, which is the main feature of the Bill,, have not been ascertained. I know, for instance, of one honorable member whohas left! for Adelaide, and who I am strongly of opinion would not vote for theBill as it stands. If any substantial alterations be made in subsequent clauses it will’ be necessary to recommit that now under consideration. Clause 5, for instance, provides that the Minister may approve of the terms of a contract under certain conditions, whilst clause 6 provides for penalties in certain cases. If those clauses beso amended as to provide that the contract- shall be referable to a Court,the one now under consideration will have to be recommitted.
– We have agreed to the necessary pairs.
– As long as honorable members will be properly represented I shall not quarrel with the Government. In any event, I do not intend to remain here all night.
– I think that the Opposition have made a reasonable appeal for the postponement of this clause, and that in any division that may take place every honorable member will be accounted for, with the exception of the honorable and learned member for Parkes.
– 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?
– There would be no interference with the contract.
– Would it not prevent an employer from contracting with a man who was resident in England?
– No. It is all right.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (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.
– How could the Minister find out unless there were some means of inquiry ?
-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 ?
– 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.
-Where were they employed?
– In Brown’s collieries.
– 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.
– They did not.
– 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.
– I ask, sir, that the honorable member should be called upon to withdraw the expression that I am attempting to bluff the Committee.
– I ask the honorable member for Parramatta to withdraw the expression which the honorable member for Newcastle regards as offensive.
– If the expression is offensive to the honorable member, I withdraw it.
– 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.]
– 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?
– How could the Minister discover unless he had power to investigate ?
– 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?
– If they came in in a large number at a particular time, the matter could not be kept secret.
– 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–
– Has the honorable member ever known a farm labourer to come out here under contract?
– 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.
– So long as the members of the Opposition are opposing it, we know that we shall do right in voting for it.
– 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.
– The men to whom the honorable member for Parramatta referred as having been brought out to look after some coal-cutting machines were men who come under the designation of miners. It is not correct to say that they were brought out with the machines, as though theyhad been engaged by those who sold them. The evidence which I obtained in the district showed that they were brought out by the mining company, and used to compete with Australian workmen in order to bring about a reduction of wages, which actually took place shortly afterwards. They were put on in dry places, and on day work, while their Australian competitors were sent to wet places, and were worked in night shifts. Consequently the Americans turned out a little more coal than the Australians.
– Are not wages in the coal industry fixed by the Arbitration Court”?
– The miners of my district have hot yet been able to bring their case before the Arbitration Court, although thatbody has been in existence for over three years.
– Why is that?
– Because of the large amount of business before the Court. That case shows that even under the present Act men can be introduced to reduce wages. No one will say that in the present state of the coal trade in New South Wales there is any need for importing labour from America, England, or anywhere else.
– I do not advocate any such importation of labour.
– I do not think that at present any miners are working more than half-time ; and the fact that men could be imported to reduce wages is a reason why the Department should be armed with the power to inquire into the circumstances surrounding all contracts. Under the present law it is difficult to ascertain whether men who come here have, or have not, been brought out under contract.
– The same difficulty would be experienced under the Bill.
– No, because the provision of which the honorable member complains will give the officials an opportunity to ascertain whether there is or is not a contract.
– I think we should have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– I would impress upon honorable members the necessity for giving the Minister the fullest power to prevent the introduction of contract immigrants under improper conditions.
– Does the honorable member regard the Bill as more restrictivethan the Act?
– I hope that it will enable the authorities to prevent the introduction of men under conditions which will prejudice our workmen.
Mr. KNOX (Kooyong). - I desire to make it perfectly clear that we all desire to prevent the introduction of contract immigrants during periods of industrial strife or under conditions which will tend to lower the wages of our workers. The honorable member for Newcastle has directed attention to an instance in which, according to his contention, the Act was evaded, and I trust that the fullest provision will be made for meeting any cases of the kind that may arise in the future. If the honorable member can suggest any reasonable amendment in that direction, I shall certainly support him. I have always opposed the introduction of outsiders into the Broken Hill mines. At one time it was proposed to introduce a number of Cornishmen and at another time the employment of Italians under contract was suggested, but I was strongly averse to any such proceeding. I object to the concluding words of the clause, which provide that the terms of the contract shall be approved by the Minister. I move -
That the words “ and its terms are approved by the Minister,” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ and provided such contract is not in contravention of section 5.”
The Minister has no right to interfere with the terms of the contract, or to exercise any control over the employer, except to the extent that may be necessary to carry out the avowed objects of the measure. All that he has to do is to satisfy himself that the interests of local workers will not be prejudiced. For instance, if I were to bring out a manager for a woollen mill, the Minister would have no right to know what the terms of the arrangement were, except to the extent necessary to satisfy himself that the -immigrant was being engaged under conditions similar to those prevailing in the Commonwealth. There is no reason why the whole of the terms of the agreement should be submitted for the approval of the Minister. Whilst I desire to protect the workers of the Commonwealth against unfair competition from outside, I do not think we should go so far as to unduly hamper employers or to prevent the introduction of a desirable class of immigrants.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).The honorable* member for Newcastle has stated a case which a moment’s consideration will show cannot possibly be affected by the Bill. The honorable member proved to us, not that these men who came out to work the machines were working for less wages than are Australians, but that they are doing more work. That is a condition of affairs that the Bill will not cure.
– It might, if the men were brought out under contract. When the honorable member for Parramatta was a miners’ secretary, would he have agreed to such a state of things?
– No; but this Bill will not cure a case of the kind.
– There is no evidence that these men were brought out under contract ; and that is the whole point.
– If they were here under contract, that fact would not make the slightest difference. If these men are doing more work than they should if is a matter to be settled by the Arbitration Court.
– The honorable member foi- Parramatta is twisting the words of the honorable member for Newcastle, who did not say that the men are doing too much work.
– The honorable member for Newcastle said that these men were doing more work owing to being out into better places - that they were doing more work than were men who were not so favorably placed.
– My complaint is that it cannot be found out whether these men were brought out under contract, with the object of reducing wage?.
– Even if the men were brought out under contract, this Bill would afford no remedy, because wages and conditions of employment must be fixed by a local tribunal.
– But it might be ascertained what the conditions are.
– If the ‘honorable member found out all about the conditions this Bill would not help him. Is the
Honorable member for Newcastle aware that if a contract be voided as soon as an immigrant arrives, there is nothing in the Bill to prevent the employer and the employe immediately afterwards renewing the contract on precisely the same terms and conditions. T hope the honorable member will not think that I am justifying what is being done in- the case which he cited; I am merely pointing out that this Bill will not affect such cases. Since the Bill cannot affect conditions of employment or rates nf wages, why trouble about inquiring into the terms of the contract, so long as we penalize any attempt at violating our Australian standards? We should concentrate our attention on that point, instead of shutting the door against all contract immigrants.
– I do not quite follow the argument of the honorable member who proposed the amendment, nor those of the honorable member for Parramatta. It seems strange that sane men cannot come to term’s and make some progress with a measure of this sort. So far as I can judge from the speeches on the second reading, there is no difference of opinion as to the principles involved ; the only difference arises as to the machinery by which effect may be given to those principles. Yet we do not appear to be able to come to terms.
– Can the honorable member make a suggestion ?
– I can suggest the application of a little common sense.. How is the Minister to ascertain whether the law has been violated unless he sees the con tract ?
– How is it found out when the law is broken in the ordinary way ?
– It depends on the law. If a man knocks another down in the street, some onlooker may afford information, or the assaulted party, when he recovers, may make a complaint. In all agreements;, one of the two parties knows when there has been a violation, and what we want to provide against, in the present instance, is collusion between the employer and the employe. Consequently, there must be some person to, as it .were, inspect the contract. The Minister’ will be represented by the Customs officers, and it is asked that we should give them the power, amongst others, to inspect the conditions of contracts. The amendment of the honorable member for Kooyong seems to make practically the same provision. It provides that such contracts shall not be in contravention of clause 5 °f the measure. In order to determine whether they do contravene the provisions of that clause, it is necessary that some authority should inspect them. At the present time, the law is enforced by Customs officers who are duly authorized for the purpose, and I think that they might be deputed to enforce the contract labour provisions of the Bill.
– It is a shadow; but it is a shadow which means the difference between an open and a closed door.
Mr. McCAY (Corinella). - I understand that the amendment under consideration proposes to omit the words. “ unless the terms are approved by the Minister,” with a view to substituting other words. I feel that instead of leaving the administration of this provision to the Minister of the day, it would be better if we prescribed that certain conditions must be complied with in any contract, and that the immigrant, or any other person interested in the matter, by reason of the fact that they were rivals for employment with him, should be entitled to bring that agreement before, say, a district Court, or a stipendiary magistrate-
– The honorable and learned member wishes to find work for the lawyers.
– I am not regarding the matter from that point of view.
– Nevertheless, that would be the result.
– If we desire to do justice, even the fact that a lawyer might be employed ought not to act as a bar. If the contract is ‘not in accordance with the prescribed conditions, I would make it voidable at the option of the contract im-‘ migrant. That would effectually prevent employers from bringing to Australia immigrants under “ cutting ‘ ‘ agreements. I would further provide that any contract which was not in accordance with the law must be amended by the Court before which it is brought to make it comply with the conditions prescribed bv the Bill. I would also give the immigrant the option of voiding it if the Court found that it required to be amended. That would prevent the contract employer from making an improper bargain–
– Under those circumstances, we should have a hundred Courts giving a hundred different decisions.
– If the Prime Minister can see his way to adopt some such proposal, the words. “ terms to be approved by the Minister “ will require to be excised. Can the honorable and learned gentleman see his way to adopt my suggestion in lieu of the centralized control for which the Bill provides?
– Does not the honorable and learned member think that his proposal would be even more objectionable than the system which is provided for in the Bill?
– No. I think it would act almost as an automatic check against “cutting” contracts. Either the contract immigrant, or any of the persons who are rivals with him for employment, would be able to bring his agreement before the Court. I do not suggest doing away with the filing of the agreement. In lieu of the Minister settling the terms, the contract should be filed so that anybody might see it. If it were not in accordance with the prescribed conditions, either the contract immigrant, or those with whom he would be a rival for employment, should be able to bring the matter before the Court.
– That might cause delay, and cost to the immigrant.
– No; a trades union could bring it before a stipendiary magistrate. I would not consent to the matter being referred to a justice of the peace. Can the Prime Minister adopt some such modification of the centralizing proposals of the Bill? If he can, I shall support the amendment ; but not otherwise. If we are to have this measure, we must provide for contracts receiving the approval of some one, and if they are not to be dealt with by a Court, they must be subject to the approval of the Minister.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat- Minister of External Affairs). - The proposition is serious enough to merit consideration, and, as a matter of fact, in another form, has already been considered. Although I admit the force of the interjections of honorable members, that an appeal to a Court of law might involve expense, and, perhaps, delay, some such means of settlement, where it is applicable, is, according to our experience, superior to all others. The proposal adopted in this Bill that, instead of these questions being brought before the Court, they shall be dealt with by the Minister, is due to the fact that some of the issues to be dealt with - issues that are very important - are not of a nature that could be settled by ordinary judicial methods within reasonable time and at reasonable expense. For instance, what could be dealt with by a Court with a good deal of satisfaction is the question whether - the remuneration and other terms and conditions of employment are as advantageous to the contract immigrant as those current for workers of the same class at the place where thecontract is to be performed.
I think that the Court could deal satisfactorily with those matters, but I do not believe it could consider whether a contract - is not made in contemplation of. or with a view of affecting an industrial dispute.
– I would suggest that a later clause should be retained so that the Minister would be able to step in at any time and say “none of these contracts can be authorized, because they affect an industrial dispute.”
– But the clause to which the honorable and learned member refers relates to the prohibition of a particular class of contract.
– We could enlarge that provision, and provide that the Minister may at any time prohibit a contract on other ground’s.
– But the Minister, in addition to receiving them, would have to judge them in that relation. The question as to the difficulty of obtaining workmen in the Commonwealth–
– That provision should not be allowed to remain there.
– Why not, if there were other competent men unemployed in the Commonwealth–
– What employer would go outside the Commonwealth for workers when he could obtain them here.
– I do not know what might be done in Australia, but I have read that in the United States and elsewhere such a practice has been resorted to.
– And in Victoria.
– For the purpose of reducing wages, and to interfere with an industrial dispute? The importtion of contract labour for such purposes is prohibited. What employer, therefore, would think of going outside for labour that could be obtained within the Commonwealth ?
– Have not men been introduced in connexion with trade disputes?
– But the Bill prohibits that being done.
– They have been introduced into Victoria to punish trade unionists.
– I fail to see how a judicial body, by judicial methods, could arrive at a determination in regard to such cases.
– There the Minister should have a reserve power which could be exercised at any time, leaving to the Court the interpretation of a contract which does not involve special, obnoxious circumstances.
– The honorable and learned member suggests that the Minister should have a reserve power to consider and deal with the questions involved in the first two paragraphs of this clause. His proposition would then relate only to the determination of the question of remuneration, and other terms and conditions, by the Court.
– Yes; it would mean that if contracts were honestly made under ordinary circumstances, the question of whether they were fair agreements would be referred to the Court. If they involved semipolitical considerations, the Minister would intervene.
– The effect of the honorable and learned member’s proposal would be that we should relieve the Minister of the consideration of only one set of questions, those relating to the remuneration of the contract labourers, and the terms and conditions of employment. Although, as I have said, I think a judicial body would be competent to decide those questions, it would do so only in the ordinary way. It would require witnesses to be examined and cross-examined. That would imply a good deal of expense, which is avoided by what I admit is the rough and ready method of trusting to a Ministerial decision on reports from the officers of the Department. There is much to recommend the proposition made by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, and in another, form it has al read v ‘ received some consideration at our hands. It was put aside, because it was thought it would mean the application of an. excellent method under conditions which, would in some cases involve hardship, and in others delay. Although it has been put again iti another tempting, form, X think, after weighing all the considerations, we had better retain the rough and ready system of Ministerial supervision. My own experience leads me te* suppose that the number of contract immigrants affected by these provisions is not likely to be very large. An application! for permission to introduce contract immigrants relates, as a rule, to only one or two men at a time.
– The employer of the six potters says that he has not done as well with them as he anticipated.
– Possibly. We might have a number, of applications for the admission of contract labourers in connexion with settlement in Queensland and other partis of the Commonwealth, where an effort is being made to establish cooperative sugar-growing on Crown areas or landsavailable for selection. I do not apprehend that there will be any difficulty in dealing with those proposals or in allowing very considerable latitude in regard to them; but the applications so far have related to the introduction of units or parties of two and three men at a time. In those cases there has been little or no difficulty in arriving at a determination that I believe to have been just Mv own experience is that but few applications are received. I cannot recall to mind one that has been finally rejected, so that in the circumstances I am inclined to think that while if time and money were not a consideration, though the method of settling these questions which the honorable and learned member has suggested would do, those provided in the Bill will best serve the needs of the situation.
– We have hari two conflicting views put forward by the Opposition. The honorable member for Kooyong objects to contracts being submitted to the Minister because he holds that it is improper to require a disclosure of any arrangement that may be made between employer and employe. On the other hand, the honorable and learned mem ber for Corinella thinks that contracts should be open for the inspection of the unions concerned. A point that is worthy of consideration is that it is essential that no one shall be brought to Australia under deceptive conditions. Hence the value of submitting the agreements for inspection before the departure of the immigrants for Australia. They must be submitted to some one, and there should be no objection to their being submitted to trusted officials of the Commonwealth, because, of course, we know that the Minister is only the head of the Department which will deal with the matter. The objection under the existing law was that some persons were kept waiting whilst their agreements were being fixed up. The trouble in connexion wilh the six hatters arose because they were detained until their employer chose to com.Pl V with the law. The object of this clause is to remedy that, and to provide that where it is shown that the contract made is a fair one, the persons introduced under it shall be admitted without any trouble.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).The more I consider the question, and listen to the conflicting views expressed, the more inclined I am to revert to my own opinion that the best way in which to deal with matters of this kind is to impose heavy penalties for any infringement of the law. I venture to say that if that be done in this case, those concerned will not begin any “ monkeying “ with these contracts in the way suggested by honorable members.
– Suppose there is collusion, as there was in the case of the six potters ?
– If there is collusion, it will not be long before it is revealed. I believe the six potters, and also the six hatters, were members of a union, and, in such circumstances, do honorable members imagine that it is possible that information concerning collusion will not leak out?
– Would it not be better that men should not be brought here until their agreements have been looked into ?
– This Bill will not prevent them being brought here, because, as I would remind the honorable member, the agreement is only to be submitted before the men land in Australia. All we need do is to say that such-and-such things are wrong, and then, if we impose stiff penalties on those who do them, we may be sure that very few will be found prepared to run the risk involved. I have suggested an easy and effective means to accomplish what we are all aiming at, while at the same time we should leave the door wide open, and thus do away with an objectionable feature of our legislation, which is besmirching our reputation. Some honorable members have admitted that they are supporting this Bill because they believe that it contains more restrictions than does the existing Act, and we are glad to have had that confession from them. We shall soon know the value of this Bill for the purpose which it has been ostensibly introduced to achieve.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England).- The more these proceedings are protracted, the more humiliated I feel to think that the great Federal Parliament is wrestling at this hour of the morning with a proposal to put obstacles in the way of the admission of a few British immigrants under contract. The great point is that we do not desire that any one should be brought here to upset the industrial arrangements of the Commonwealth, and we need to be sure that the measure we pass will carry out that idea. The question whether men have sufficient skill in connexion with any particular industry is one which should be dealt with not by the Minister, but by a judicial tribunal. How is the Minister to get his evidence? It will not be sworn testimony, and I suppose he will take the word of some secretary to a union as to whether or not men possessing certain skill are to be obtained in the Commonwealth. I cannot understand why all this opposition is offered by the Prime Minister to the idea of getting the matter settled in the way proposed. I know that a number of his supporters are against one provision to which he objects being omitted. I think that he ought to enable us to deal with this, point as soon as possible, and let us get home. There are a number of divisions to be taken. I myself have three or four amendments to move. In view of tlie important interests which are involved, a great deal more consideration ought to be given to the Bill than can be given in these circumstances. We should not be forced to pass a crude measure, which will bring us into greater disrepute in the old country. No one here wishes to alter the industrial conditions. It appears to me that a small committee, consisting of three or four members selected from each side of the Chamber, could quickly put the BilL in a form in which it could be unanimously agreed to.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 -
The Minister shall approve the terms of the contract only -
if in his opinion -
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth). - I havea suggestion to make, which will not alter the substance of the clause, but will give a greater discretion to the Minister, and that is to substitute the word “ may “ for the word “shall” in the first line.
– That would destroy the whole Bill.
– I do not propose to go so far as that. I only suggest that) the Minister shall be empowered to disapprove if he thinks fit when a copy of the contract is filed with him. The effect will be the same, but the Minister will have a greater discretion.
– Much too great, I think.
– It is a discretion which the Minister ought to have in a case of this sort. . A situation might arise when it might be necessary for the Minister to exercise a discretion, and he would always be responsible to the House.
– I think that the suggestion of the honorable member would permit of a degree of variety in the decisions of different Ministers which would introduce a highly undesirable element of uncertainty. At present we insure uniformity, so far as Ave can, by laying down conditions which every Minister will be called upon to observe. He will have to look at three points, and to satisfy himself thereon. If it were left optional one Minister might drop one condition, and another Minister might drop another condition, and the consequence would be that there would be no uniformity. In the circumstances, I do not think that the widening of the discretion to that extent is desirable.
– In my speech on the second reading I suggested. for certain reasons, the propriety of omitting paragraph b of sub-clause 2. I do not think it is possible for the Minister, no matter how well he may be informed by his officers, to be in as good a position to judge as to the qualifications of employes as would the employer. It is not reasonable to assume that an employer would “go beyond the Commonwealth, and incur the cost and attendant risk of bringing in employes, if he could get men her.; at the same rate of wages. It) is only in special cases that an employer would wish to bring in men, and when he does he is expected to take the risk of the Minister or an officer saying that he is not entitled to land them.
– Under this clause the employer is supposed to submit the contract beforehand.
– That means that before a man can move in his business he will have to consult the Minister. Take the recent case of some Australians, who, when travelling in other countries, purchased stock, and secured men to bring them out. How could they possibly have consulted the Minister bef orehand ? To my mind it is impossible to deal with every case which may arise. We place ourselves as a community in an absurd position when difficulties of this kind arise. I do not object to restrictions on immigration, but we should allow the law to be administered with common sense. To make the Minister the judge of the qualifications of a man is absurd, unless what is meant is that the Minister shall declare in every case that the would-be employer could suit himself better in Australia. There are in Australia ploughmen better than any others in the world, but every farmer knows that a man may be a first-class ploughman, and unable to manage a team of horses, or a good man with horses in the paddock, but knowing nothing of their management in the stable. Fortunately, some of our farmers have been able to visit the old country, and when there a man might see ploughmen whom he would recognise as possessing an unusual combination of qualifications, and might, therefore, desire to bring out with him to Australia. But could that have been done as the law has hitherto been administered ?
– That is news to me.
– I should have no hesitation in admitting such men under the circumstances described by the honorable member,
– But the trouble is to describe the circumstances. In the cases to which I refer, it would have been impossible to comply with the conditions laid down in this clause. I, therefore, ask the Government to consent to the omission of paragraph b of sub-clause 2. It is not reasonable to assume that any employer of labour would import to Australia a man who was not possessed of special abilities, because, after he got him here, he would have to pay him the rates of wages obtained locally. That in itself is an ample safeguard.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat - Minister of External Affairs). - I submit that the provision to which the honorable member takes exception is not more stringent than that in the existing law. The Immigration Restriction Act excludes “ workmen exempted by the Minister for special skill required in Australia,” whereas under the clause, the Minister may approve of a contract if in his opinion there is difficulty in obtaining within the Commonwealth “ a worker of at least equal skill and ability.”
– Does the Prime Minister mean that the existing law implies that there must be no one in Australia possessing the skill required?
– That there is no one possessing that skill available where wanted. Cases such as the honorable member for Moira has referred to are comparatively rare, but would not occasion any difficulty. I think that a ploughman chosen under the circumstances which he has mentioned, might fairly be admitted. As I indicated when moving the second reading, contracts affecting one individual only, of whom the would-be employer has conceived a high opinion, will be viewed differently from contracts for the importation of 50, 100, or 1,000 men. Each contract will be considered in relation to the number of men to which it applies, as well as in relation to all the other circumstances of the case. It is only when it is proposed to introduce men in large numbers that a provision like that of paragraph b is required. Without such a safeguard, the labour market in any part of Australia might be injuriously and unnecessarily flooded.
– Will the Minister amend the provision so as to make it apply only to the importation of men in large numbers?
– There is room for a common-sense application of the law under the strictest interpretation of the provision, so that there is no need for any such amendment. Paragraph b is intended to apply, not only to such cases as those mentioned by the honorable member for Moira - in which the immigration would not be prohibited - but to cases differentiated from them by the number of men concerned and by other circumstances. It is desirable that the Government should be satisfied that men are not being imported merely to displace others, and this provision will not only prevent that being attempted, but will also act as a warning to those who might otherwise be disposed to make the attempt.
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth).- Will this provision apply to the introduction of five or six men - such as the hatters who were imported ?
– It did apply to the six hatters ; but, in that case the employer refused to obey the law. Each case must be judged on its merits. In that case the law was flouted.
– We have to trust to the Minister implicitly. When I suggested a wider scope, the honorable and learned gentleman said that it was too wide.
– It was very wide.
– The Prime Minister then suggested that it would give too much discretion. How far will the discretion of the Minister extend in cases in which it is proposed to introduce only one individual ?
– The metric system has not yet been applied to the measurement of discretion.
– The Prime Minister must know how it is intended to administer this provision. We are in the dark on the subject. We have only his assurance. If the Minister is to satisfy himself as to the necessity for the introduction of any workmen, the Bill will accentuate the difficulties under which we have been labouring for the last two years.
Amendment (by Mr. Kennedy) proposed -
That paragraph b, sub-clause 2, be left out.
– I trust that the amendment will not be agreed to. It is extremely difficult to prevent the introduction of men under contract to replace workers who are already in the Commonwealth. When the six hatters were introduced there was no difficulty about procuring all the men who were required. Mr. Anderson admitted that he turned away from his factory some men who were as competent as those who were afterwards introduced from England. I have a copy of a letter from the New South Wales Felt Hatters’ Society, the majority of the members of which were brought out under contract. The letter reads as follows : -
New South Wales Felt Hatters’ Society.
Trades Hall, Sydney, 8th November, 1905.
Dear Sir, - I am instructed by the above Society to inform you that at the last meeting we unanimously carried a resolution against amending the Contract Clauses of the Immigration Restriction Act. We believe that it is only a move on the part of the Employers’ Federation to give them an opening to import as many workmen into the country as they think fit ; and get the labour market over-stocked, so as to bring wages down. Nearly every member of our Society was present at the meeting at which this resolution was carried. I remain, &c,
Sam. Grimshaw, Secretary.
I find that the name of Samuel Grimshaw appears amongst those of the second batch of six hatters who were introduced under contract. Mr. Grimshaw is now the secretary of the society, and apparently the men who were brought out under contract desire, now that they know the exact position of affairs, that the introduction of other men under conditions similar to those which applied to their own case shall be prevented.
– They want to keep the trade to themselves; they are a mean, narrowminded crowd.
– If the amendment were carried, it would be impossible to prevent the market from being flooded, and, in view of the fact that in most trades there are plenty of skilled artisans available, I think that we should take measures to guard against such a contingency as that indicated in the letter which I have read.
– The honorable member for Yarra has told us in effect that there is a flaw in the Act, in so far that six hatters, who had no right to come here, were admitted into the Commonwealth’. I would ask the honorable member whether the provisions now under consideration were introduced in order to remedy that defect ?
– They do not remedy it.
– Do they not go to some extent in the direction that the honorable member desires ?
– Is there anything else that the honorable member would like to know ?
– There are a number of other things that I should like to know. The statement of the honorable member for Yarra has made me suspect that the Bill has been introduced, not for the purpose described by the Prime Minister, but rather with a view to impose still further obstacles in the way of immigration, such as is needed to enable us to properly develop this country.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I intend presently to move an amendment to this effect -
That the following words be added to subclause c : - “ Provided that this clause shall not apply to immigrants who are citizens of the United Kingdom.”
Ishall not add more than a word or two to the arguments I used when speaking on the. second readingto show the necessity for a provision of this kind. Throughout this Bill, foreigners and citizens of Great Britain are treated exactly alike; but surely there ought to be some exception made in favour of our own fellowcountrymen. The least we can do, in our own interests, is to remove the cause of the complaint by the press of Great Britain, that we apply conditions which Great Britain does not apply to Australians - that we are treating them absolutely as foreigners - by placing some such exemption as I propose in the measure. I do not go so far as to ask that there shall be any exception which will allow British citizens to be engaged so as to interfere with industrial disputes in Australia, or to reduce wages and impair the conditions which prevail here. I propose this amendment in order that the press of Great Britain shall have no excuse for informing their readers that a Britisher is unable to obtain employment in Australia until a Minister, who depends on the votes of Australians, has taken care that preferential employment is given to every man in this country able and willing to take the position. I have already pointed out that, with the restrictions in regard to wages and other conditions of labour, there is no likelihood of any contract being entered into unless an employer is of opinion that he is unable to obtain here the skill which he requires. Why should the employer pay passage money, submit to delay, and incur the risk of men turning out unsatisfactory, if he can obtain on the spot the skill desired. Under the circumstances, there is no fear that contracts will be made except in cases of absolute necessity. That being so, why should we say that, so long as there is a man disengaged in a. particular industry in Australia, he must be given employment before any of our British fellow-subjects are admitted? I hope that the Government will accept the amendment, and thus, instead of making a declaration to the effect I have indicated, will make it known to the press and public of Great Britain that Australia re cognises some difference between the people of the mother land, who have given us our constitution and country, and the most desirable or undesirable of foreigners. Thatis all I have to say upon the matter. I desire the Ministry and their supporters to make it clear whether they are determined to rigidly exclude our fellowcountrymen in Great Britain from admission to the Commonwealth under contract unless the employer seeking to engage them is satisfied that he cannot get locally the skilled labour that he requires for his industry. That is the situation which will be created if we pass the present provisions of the Bill. Simply because, in the opinion of the Minister - who may know little or nothing about the matter - there are two or three men in the Commonwealth who are capable of filling the position for which an immigrant has been imported, are we to deliberately exclude our fellow-countrymen and to retard the development of our industries”? These, I think, constitute the best reasons why we should adopt the amendment.
– What is the amendment?
– I proposed to insert at the end of the sub-clause the words “provided that paragraph b of this sub-clause shall not apply to citizens of the United Kingdom.”
– Would that proposal cover Hindoos?
– We can specify “ white “ citizens if we choose 10 do so.
– Why exclude Canadians?
– I am quite willing to widen my amendment so as to include them.
– Let us say “white British subjects.”
– That would constitute a colour discrimination.
– I admit that my proposal is open to that objection. I recognise the difficulty that we might experience by inserting the word “ white.” 1 think that an exception should be made in the case of citizens of the United Kingdom . ,
– We block Asiatics from coming to the Commonwealth in the principal Act.
– I do not know whether the Prime Minister would consider that the insertion of the words “citizens of the British Empire” would cover Asiatics.
– They are not citizens in the same sense as are residents ofthe United Kingdom, although they are subjects of the King.
– The words British subjects, unless otherwise provided by law “ might meet the case.
– I thank the honorable and learned member for his suggestion. Has the Prime Minister any objection to accepting the amendment with the proviso which is now in the Bill ?
– At the present time, British subjects are only prohibited from entering the Commonwealth to the extent that the educational test is applicable to them. I suppose that the suggestion of the honorable member would meet the situation.
– I quite recognise that there is no reason why Canadians should be excluded.
– What about the Maoris ; they are closer to us than anybody else?
– I move-
That at the end of sub-clause 2 the following words be inserted : - “ Provided that paragraph b of this sub-clause shall not apply to British subjects.”
– I think that the use of the words “ British subjects,” without a proper definition, would be too broad a provision.
– Altogether too broad.
– It would apparently cover all British subjects.
– That is not intended.
– I know, from what the honorable member has said, that he does not intend it to apply to the native subjects of His Majesty in India, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
– The honorable and learned member for Corio has pointed out that there is a prohibition of such persons in the original Act.
– But that might lead to a certain degree of confusion inthe minds of those who have an opportunity to consider only this particular measure. I think that the idea generally is worthy of consideration, and perhaps the Prime Minister will be able to suggest some phraseology to meet the position.
– 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.
– White British subjects.
– 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
– That would include some coloured people.
– 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.”
– I must confess that I do not like this amendment. The extraordinary enthusiasm with which it is received by honorable members, who have endeavoured in every possible way to break down this provision, is sufficient to convince me that it should be very carefully considered. I think the amendment is one to which the trade unionists and organized workers generally of Australia may take serious exception. We have always asserted our willingness to welcome with open arms any person who will come to this country with a desire to improve the conditions of labour, or, at least, without any desire to drag them down.
– The remuneration clauses and those’ affecting terms and conditions remain.
– That is so, but under this amendment, notwithstanding the fact that there may be hundreds, or thousands, of unemployed available for employment in any particular industry, it will be possible for an employer to go outside, and import men under contract to still further swamp the labour market.
– And pay their passages?
– There are any number of unscrupulous employers, who would be prepared to take advantage of this amendment, to import contract labour to break down the trade unionism that exists in this country, or to lower the conditions of labour. I am not surprised that the amendment should meet with the approval of honorable members who desire to open wide the door, and to drag down the unionism whose power they fear at election times. But those who are desirous of maintaining a high, standard of living in Australia, and who believe that persons already here should be provided with employment before others are admitted to swamp the labour market, will not be so ready to accept it.
– Persons cannot be introduced in connexion with, or in contemplation of, an industrial dispute
– There might be no contemplation of an industrial dispute. Suppose that in an industry one hundred men were out of employment, and the employer imported fifty men. Could that be interpreted to be in contemplation of an industrial dispute. This amendment is submitted at 3 o’clock in the morning; it ;s practically sprung upon the Committee.
– Yesterday morning I said that I intended to move the amendment, so that it cannot be said to have been sprung upon the Committee.
– I did not hear the honorable member announce his intention. I hope that the amendment will’ not be accepted, because it would enable a number of unscrupulous employers, if they were to get into a federation, to break down the conditions with which the workers of the Commonwealth are blest. If we are to extend any preference, .1 am prepared to go so far as to disallow a contract made under any conditions with a foreigner; but I am not’ prepared to give an employer the right to import labour when the home market is already supplied.
Mr. WATSON (Bland). - I do not anticipate from this amendment any dangers such as those which are apprehended by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. What, in my view,.. was aimed at in the first place by the prohibition of contract labour was the prevention of the introduction of men to participate in a labour dispute which was either pending or in existence, or to work at a lower rate of remuneration or for longer hours or under worse conditions than those which were current here, and also to insure that men were not deceived into accepting conditions which they would not have accepted if they had been aware of those which existed here. These were the arguments which were advanced in support of the provision when it was submitted in the first session of the Parliament. To my mind, there can be no possible objection to the amendment, because I do not consider that the employers would be likely in any large degree, if at all-, to bring in a number of men at great expense to receive the same rate of wages, to work the same number of hours, and under the same conditions generally as were current, unless it was in a case where a dispute was pending, and where they might be prepared temporarily to observe all the conditions, with a view to breaking the back of a strike. I have known blacklegs to be paid temporarily much more than the standard rate, and much more than the strikers were asking for, in order to break the back of a strike.
– And this amendment would give encouragement to that.
– No. Evidently the honorable member has overlooked the fact that paragraph a provides, not only against a strike which is in existence, but also against a strike which is pending, and that covers all the ground.
– In actual practice it is not worth much.
– If paragraph a, which refers to a strike which is pending, or v.i existence, is worth very little, then paragraph b, which does not refer to either of those two cases, which may be determined with comparative ease, cannot be worth anything, so that, on my honorable friend’s showing, it is not worth bothering about. In my view, however, paragraph a is worth a very great deal, because it should be easily demonstrable to the Minister that a strike was either in existence or pending. Assuming that men would come out to Australia, and that on their arrival no strike was in existence or pending, the only excuse for a strike afterwards would be that it was proposed to pay them lower remuneration, to work them longer hours,, or to observe other conditions which were unfair or improper.
– Suppose that they gave the contract men full work, and put the free men off three days a week, as has been done here?
– If the contract men were unionists, I take it that they would not be prepared to accept an advantage of their fellow-employe’s.
– They might not be able to help themselves.
– If the men were unionists they would observe the current conditions, and not take an unfair advantage of their fellow-employes. But if they were non-unionists I assume that there would be a strike, whether they were under contract or not. So that practically the position is not altered by the fact that the men may be under contract. So long as they are working under Australian conditions, getting Australian rates of wages and observing Australian hours of labour, it does not seem to me that there is any justification for insisting upon this provision.
– If I recollect rightly, during the debates on the Immigration Restriction Bil] in this Chamber, something more was considered than the points which have been touched upon bv the honorable member for Bland. Great stress was laid upon the fact that labour should not be brought here under contract in connexion with trades or callings in which there was already a sufficiency in the Commonwealth.
– That is not so. If that had been pointed out, a great many would have voted against the provision.
– That was a consideration then, and should be a consideration now. I cannot understand the desire to take this provision out of the Bill. All it does is to prohibit the introduction of labour under contract, unless there is a difficulty in getting workmen in Australia. No one objects to the importation of labourers or artisans belonging to trades in which there is now an insufficiency of workers. But these restrictions are justified when it is proposed to import labour in trades which are now full. The argument which we hear from members of the Opposition, in reference to the American law, is that America imposes restrictions on immigrationbecause she has plenty of artisans.
– Against whom the employers are conspiring.
– Whenever employers wish to reduce wages, they try to create a surplus of labour. I have given a case to-night in which men were brought from America to work in a mine in a district which I represent, and I venture to say that they are now not being employed half their time. I admit that it could not be proved that they were brought here under contract, but it is not likely that they would come from America unless they had a contract, express or implied. Was there any need to bring those men to Australia, seeing that the coal miners already here are not working half their time? Would the deputy leader of the Opposition favour the importation of men from England or elsewhere when men here were not fully employed ?
– I should rebel against it.
– Would not the miners rebel against it by striking?
– They cannot help themselves, and in New South Wales they cannot strike.
– They have struck in the honorable member’s electorate.
– The action of which I am complaining resulted in the stoppage of a colliery in the electorate adjoining my own. No harm will be done by leaving the provision in the Bill. It offers no affront to any Britisher, or to any one else, and it is necessary in order to prohibit the importation of labour at a time when the market is already fully supplied. There will never be a strike when there are two men looking for any job that is offering, and employers always try to create that position before attempting to bring down wages. I am very disappointed that the Government propose to accept the amendment.
– I am not opposed to the amendment simply because it has been moved by a member of the Opposition, but the only reason given for it by the honorable member for North Sydney was that, if it were adopted, the people and the press of England would know that we are trying, by giving them concessions, to allay the irritation which is supposed to have been caused by the statements which have appeared in English newspapers. That reason does not appeal to me. We have heard too much about the impression which has been created in England byabsolutely false statements about our legislation, and I question whether the insertion of a proviso such as is proposed will affect those who have vilified us, and will continue to do so, no matter what action we may take. I am surprised that the Prime Minister has so hastily accepted the amendment. What impression will it create on the mind of the Britisher? We cannot tell him that we have repealed our legislation against the admission of labour under contract. Allwe can. say is that he may make a contract with an Australian employer, subject to certain disabilities, but that the employer will not be called upon to satisfy the Minister of the existence of certain conditions in Australia. Such a concession will not be worth anything in the eyes of the British public, and, seeing that that is so, and that the amendment will open the door to great dangers, I ask the Government whether it is worth while to accept it? I should much prefer to see the clause postponed, so that the whole matter may be calmly considered. I am sorry that the honorable member for Bland is not here, because I wish to reply to some of his observations. I said, by way of interjection, that paragraph a was not of much value in actual practice. My reason for making that statement is that it would be impossible for any one beyond the employers or employes concerned to know that a dispute was in contemplation. Some three years ago, the Western Australian Government, without consulting any one, entered into a contract with twelve boiler-makers in Great Britain, who undertook to serve for two years in the work-shops at Fremantle. No one knew anything about what was being done until the men were on the water, and it would have been impossible for any one to satisfy the public, that they were being introduced in contemplation of any dispute. Those who were in the work-shops, however, knew that when these men arrived some change would be made which would seriously affect the position of some of the employes. As a matter of fact, after the boiler-makers had been at work for six months, a dispute was forced on the workmen, and a strike was averted only by an offer to submit the whole matter to arbitration. It was afterwards proved! beyond all doubt that the boiler-makers had been introduced in contemplation of action being taken that would lead to a dispute, and probably result in a strike. The Government were relying upon these twelve boilermakers to stand by them, but when the dispute took place they ranged themselves alongside their fellow- workmen. Paragraph a does not accomplish the purpose that it is designed to fulfil, because it cannot be ascertained when an employer contemplates action that will probably bring about a strike. In view of the fact that the whole value of the clause rests upon paragraph b-
– Paragraph c is also very important.
– Yes, but it must be remembered that the wages of Australian workmen depend very largely upon the number of men who are wanting work. No union can keep up rates to what it regards as the proper standard if a large number of its members are out of work. Paragraph b is really the kernel of the clause, and I trust that the Government will reconsider the position, and ascertain whether some other words cannot be inserted which will have the desired effect without impairing the powers which are intended to be conferred upon the Minister. We should not, for the sake of placating our opponents, weaken the main provision of the measure.
– I am in sympathy with the expressed intention of the mover of the amendment. If it be necessary to bring workmen into Australia, preference should certainly be given to Britishers, but the amendment goes a great deal further than some honorable members seem to realize. According to my reading of it, whether there be a difficulty or not in procuring skilled labour in any trade, no obstacle will be placed in the way of any employer introducing as many Britishers as he pleases. Therefore, the door, will be wide open, so far as British subjects are concerned. If, for instance, we had 5,000 carpenters in the Commonwealth at present, and 5,000 other artisans following that calling were introduced here, it would be impossible to keep up the present rale of wages for any length of time.
– That is an absurd contingency to contemplate.
– Something of that kind has happened in America, although under the laws of that country, no contract labour can be introduced. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has mentioned an instance in which sixteen working jewellers were introduced into Victoria because the workmen in the trade wished to form themselves into a union. Does the honorable member for Boothby mean to tell me that the same course could not be followed by employers in other trades? I venture to say that if twenty men were added to the number of artisans in South Australia engaged in the trade to which the honorable member formerly belonged, a very unsatisfactory state of affairs would be brought about, and the employers would soon move in the direction of reducing wages. In many trades, ten additional men would be sufficient, and in some five only would be required, to enable the employers to bring down wages. I am entirely opposed to men being brought in here under contract, because if work is available new-comers experience no difficulty in finding employment. If workers are required, let us have Britishers in preference to foreigners. I am disgusted to think that some ship-owners ‘ are so unpatriotic in some cases as to even sail under a foreign flag in order to be able to employ foreigners. If the Government will provide that in case of workers being wanted here, preference shall be given to Britishers, they shall have my support; but I object to leave it to an unscrupulous employer, in connexion with a strike, or with a view to reducing wages, to be allowed to bring in as many contract artisans as he thinks fit. Every member of the Labour Party must be opposed to such proceedings. We have said that the door must be shut, and it is shut ; and yet it is pro- posed now to re-open it. If the honorable member who submitted the amendment is in favour of the view I am expressing, he certainly did not succeed in conveying his meaning; but I take it that his intention is to give preference to Britishers in case artisans or labourers are required. I am sorry the honorable member is not here, so that he might tell us what he really does mean. I ask the Prime Minister whether my interpretation of the proposal is or is not the correct one, namely, that it will enable an employer to import Britishers under contract, whether or not there is employment for them.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh referred to my own trade of engine-fitter, but I can assure him that I do not know of a single instance in which men in that trade have’’ been brought to South Australia under contract.
– That does not affect the future.
– We are now dealing with the present.
– It is not a fair case to put, anyhow.
–That case was instanced, not by me, but by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. I can assure that honorable member that, so far as my trade is concerned, it has certainly not been injured bv contract labour.
– Men cannot be brought in under contract under the existing Act.
– My experience dates from a time previous to the operation of that Act. As a matter of fact, engine-fitters are coming, from Scotland particularly, to Australia by almost every boat, and frequently there are more here than can be absorbed, with the result that wages are reduced. The reduction of wages, however, is in no way caused by contract labour, because all these men come in “on their own.” There was one case in South Australia in which engineers were brought in on contract, but that was in connexion with the strike; and the attempt to reduce wages and impair the conditions of labour was resisted very strongly. Such cases as that, however, are provided against in the Bill.
– Fulton’s men were brought in under contract.
– Those men were brought in on conditions widely different from those prevailing in Australia. Had Fulton’s been required to pay Australian rates of wages, they would never have gone to the expense of importing those men from Scotland. Except in connexion with a strike, or an attempt to reduce wages, employers will never go to the expense of bringing men from Great Britain or Canada. I do not believe in imposing one unnecessary restriction in connexion with immigration. There can be no object in an employer going to Europe for men, and paying them the Australian rate of wages, when there are sufficient men available on the spot.
– I can tell the honorable member that such a thing has been done with the object of ultimately reducing wages.
– That object could be achieved now without importing men, because the employers are federated, and could shift men about from one place to another. In my opinion, it is sought to impose an unnecessary restriction in order to fight what, after all, is a myth.
– The honorable member admits that it is much easier to reduce wages when there is surplus labour in a particular industry ?
– Of course it is. But surplus labour is usually caused, not by men who are brought under contract, but by men who come here on their own account. The few cases in which men would be brought in under contract are not sufficient to justify what appears to be a blow at our British fellow-subjects. The few men who may come under contract can surely be absorbed in a population of 4,000,000. Our best protection, in my opinion, is our distance from Europe. The position of America is different, because for a few dollars men can be conveyed there from the Continent of Europe; and, hence, very stringent contract laws are necessary. If we find, of course, that the opening provided is availed of to the detriment of our own workmen, then will be the time to enact drastic remedial legislation. The proposal in the Bill would serve no good purpose, and the amendment shows, at any rate., a desire on our part to discriminate in favour of British subjects.
– As one who took part in the discussion which took place upon the proposal not to admit contract immigrants to Australia when the Immigration Restriction Bill was under consideration, I have a distinct recollection that only two points were raised upon that occasion, We sought to guard against the introduction of men under contract during the progress of an industrial dispute, and also against their acceptance of a lower wage than that current in Australia in the industry in which they wished to engage. Reference to the Hansard, report will show that when the question was being debated instances were quoted in which Italians had been introduced to work in- the mines of Western Australia for less than half the ordinary rate of wage. The two points to which I have referred were all that we contended for then, and they are all that we ask for now. I shall never sanction the adoption of an exclusive policy in this connexion. The honorable member for Newcastle has contended that immigrants may be imported to Australia, and a strike may subsequently result ; but I would ask him if there is anything to prevent that occurring at the present time? Could not 500 contract immigrants be imported by the proprietors of the Broken Hill mines,, and could they riot discharge 500 of their present hands?
– The honorable member wishes to accentuate that position.
– I do not. I have been associated with mining longer than has the honorable member. I worked in the mines before he was born. If the employers wished to introduce contract labourers, and subsequently to discharge their present employes, they could do so to-day.
– I have known them to flood a colliery with men from England.
– I do not deny that that has been done. At the same time, I do not believe that employers will bring men here under contract, and pay them the Australian rates of wages, besides advancing their steamer fares.
– I am prepared to allow any British subject to enter Australia, so long as he subscribes to conditions similar to those which obtain here. Therefore,- 1 shall support the amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney. Whilst Australians are permitted to open businesses in London without any let or hindrance, we ought to allow residents of the United Kingdom to enter the Commonwealth free from any restrictions. I know men who are working in England today, and who are receiving just as good wages as they can obtain in Australia.
– The honorable member would allow contract labourers to be introduced here, whilst there are plenty of our own men idle.
– That interjection shows that the honorable member does not understand the proposal. It appears to me that some honorable members wish to thrust their opinions down the throats of others. I have an opinion of my own, however, and I intend to exercise it.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra).’ - Honorable members opposite have emphasized the fact that they desire to extend a preference to Britishers. I wish to grant a preference to those who are already here. The amendment of the honorable member for North Sydney would allow contract immigrants to be imported, whilst an unlimited number .of equally skilled Australians were idle. I do not think that anybody desires that.
– Employers would not advance men their passage money and incur the risks which they would be required to incur under those circumstances.
– Contract immigrants are always required to refund their passage money.
– That is so. I have never known a case in which they were not compelled to do so. ‘
– I know of a case in which men who were brought to the Newcastle district under contract are not working half-time.
– I . do not think that we ought to give Britishers any preference over Australians.
– It is not proposed that we should do so.
– It is. The honorable member must see that under the amendment the Minister would not need’ to be satisRed that an employer experienced a difficulty in obtaining a worker of equal skill and ability in the Commonwealth, to sanc tion the admission of contract immigrants. Although there might be any number of m-Pi idle in Australia who were equally skilled with the contract immigrants, the letter could be brought in under this amendment.
– I say that they would not- be brought in.
– My point is that they could be. Surely we are not prepared to say to Australian workers, “ Because you have had the misfortune to be born here, a preference is to be given to other workers, whose skill is not superior to your own. You are not to have a chance, but must walk the streets while other men are found employment.” I trust that’ the amendment will be altered, for I cannot vote for it in its present form”. r am prepared to give Britishers a pre ference over other workers from abroad, but I think that our first consideration should be for Australians.
– Honorable members scarcely seem to recognise the enormous sacrifice that the Opposition are making in giving up the opportunity to raise the cry of the “six hatters” at the next general election. When one of our workers is thrown out of employment, what satisfaction he will derive from the knowledge that a fellow-Britisher has taken his place ! His wife and family will certainly enjoy the sentiment arising out of the situation. The honorable member for North Sydney has appealed to our patriotism, and we should not profess to be patriots unless we are prepared to sacrifice something. Why should not an Australian worker show his patriotism by handing over his billet to a Britisher? But, after all, I do not think that there is much in this proposal to occasion alarm. All that trade unionism has ever demanded from an employer is that he shall observe reasonable hours and conditions of labour. We object to a man discharging an- employ6 because he is a unionist, but we have never denied the right of an employer to engage whomsoever he pleases.
– I have taken part in a strike, because an employer declined to give a reason for discharging one of his hands.
– I have taken part in a dispute arising out of the dismissal of a man because he was a unionist. But having regard to the other provisions of the Bill, I do not see that there is much reason to be alarmed at this proposal. I believe that the possibility of employers expending large sums of money in importing labour from abroad will be reduced.
– Have not the workers to make good that expenditure?
– Certainly. I am opposed to the introduction of contract labour under any conditions, and have never known of a case where men entering into a contract abroad to serve in Australia have not been -misled. One large firm in New South Wales has imported men supposed to have a special knowledge of certain machinery, and after learning all that they could teach them, has thrown them on the labour market. In the circumstances, however, if the Government are- prepared to accept this amendment, I shall not strongly oppose it.
Mr. HUTCHISON (Hindmarsh).When I spoke to this question a few minutes ago, I said that an interpretation could be placed upon the amendment different from that given by the honorable member for North Sydney, and since discussing the matter with him, I have found that my statement is absolutely correct. I said that I should be prepared to give a preference to Britishers, as against other workers from abroad, but this amendment will go much further than that. I do not intend to forsake the principles of the Labour Party, for which I fought long before this Parliament was established, nor shall I break the pledges which I gave when on the hustings. T am opposed to the introduction of contract labour, and should have been pleased to see clause 3 in this Bill negatived ; but as that has not been done, I do not wish its provisions to be weakened.
Mr. FRAZER (Kalgoorlie).- I should like to hear some expression of opinion from the leader of the Government on this amendment. I hope the honorable and learned gentleman will not be opposed to a modification of the proposal in the event of its being shown that it is likely to have the effect of directly supplanting Australian labour. The argument advanced from the other side, that an employer is not likely to go to the expense of importing labourers from distant countries when men are to be had at his own door, is met by the fact that it is invariably a condition of these contracts that the workman shall, out of his first wages, refund the expense to which the employer has been put in importing him. I am credibly informed that shortly after the six hatters were introduced, the services of a number of tradesmen in the employment of the same manufacturer. were mysteriously dispensed with.
– He wants more now.
– I am g,lad to hear that the Sydney industries are in a flourishing condition, as the result of the operation of the Federal Tariff. They would boom with another 10 per cent. The amendment is enticing, and has no doubt a patriotic flavour about it, but I am sorry that the Prime Minister should be willing, by accepting it, to prevent the realization of the ambition of the Australian workers.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 6 -
If before the Minister approves the terms of the contract the contract immigrant lands in Australia -
the contract immigrant is liable to a penalty not exceeding Five pounds;
the employer shall pay to the contract immigrant such specified sum of money (not exceeding Fifty pounds) as the Minister thinks sufficient, either to maintain the contract immigrant until he can be reasonably expected to find suitable employment or at the option of the contract immigrant to enable him to return to the country whence he came. The sum, when specified in writing by the Minister, shall be recoverable by the contract immigrant, or by the Minister for him.
The foregoing provisions of this section do notapply where the contract immigrant -
lands under a bond to the Commonwealth in such sum, with such sureties, and conditioned to be void in such events as the Minister approves.
Mr. JOHNSON (Lang).- On behalf of the honorable member for Corinella, I move -
That paragraph b, of sub-clause 1, be left out.
Obviously a man who may be perfectly innocent of any desire to commit an offence, and who could not be expected to know the laws of the country of which he was not a citizen, should not be mulcted in a fine.
– The effect of this provision is to prevent a contract immigrant from reaping the benefit of his own practical breach of the contract - that is to say, if he landed in Australia he would make the contract void and. become free. If that were done deliberately to take advantage of his employer, it was thought only fair that the contract immigrant should be subject to a penalty.
– Suppose that he were brought out under false pretences ?
– The contract immigrant would be protected. If by his own act he could make the contract void, and he were not liable to a penalty, the contract would be one-sided. The employer would take all the risks, and the contract immigrant would have the opportunity of voiding the contract merely by landing before the terms of the contract had been approved. I do not consider the paragraph of much importance, because it is intended to meet a case in whichthe contract had not been submitted to the Minister for approval. It would be made beforehand, and those who made it would take their chance. If, under these circumstances, the Committee think it is equitable to strike outthe paragraph, I am indifferent.
– I think it is right to strike out the paragraph, because it seems to me that it would deter a number of men from coming here. In addition to that, the Prime Minister recognises that, under paragraph d, there is always the employers’ liability.
– Before the paragraph is struck out, there are two points which ought to be considered. In the first place, an employe might, after his passage had been paid, deliberately attempt to defraud the employer by voiding the contract. Would that be fair to the employer?In the second place, the paragraph is necessary, in order to meet a case of collusion with the employer to subvert the intention of the Act.
– On the other hand, is it reasonable to expect that a contract immigrant could be familiar with our law?
– Practically the contract immigrant would know the terms of the contract before he came here, and cer- tainly the agreement would be in his hands when he landed. I assume that unless a contract immigrant deliberately attempted to defraud his employer, or acted in collusion with the employer to subvert the intention of the Act, no Minister would ever think of imposing the penalty.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to-
That the word “ contract,” wherever occurring before the word “ immigrant “ in paragraphs b and d of sub-clause 1, be left out.
Mr. CROUCH (Corio). - Apparently, under paragraph b of sub-clause 2, a Minister would be bound to require at least two sureties. Would it not be better to say, “ surety or sureties,” so long as the security given is sufficiently large?
Amendment (by Mr. Deakin) agreed to -
That the word “ sureties,” in paragraph bof sub-clause 2, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ security.”
Mr. CROUCH (.Corio).- As this clause is one whose validity is likely to be tested in the Law Courts, there is another point to which I direct the Prime Minister’s attention. A contract immigrant is defined as “an immigrant to Australia. “ But, according to Chambers’ Dictionary, an immigrant is one who migrates or moves into a country, and a person does not become an immigrant until he has got inside the country in relation to which he is an immigrant. Placing this interpretation on the word, we are making liable to penalties persons who cannot become immigrants.
Mr.Deakin. - I am obliged to the honorable and learned member for having raised the point, and shall have it considered.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 12 agreed to.
– Will the Prime Minister see that it is provided in the regulations that the Minister must furnish an annual report, giving the number of persons coming to Australia under the provisions of this measure, so that Parliament may know what is taking place?
– We shall see that that is done.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the Bill to pass through all its remaining stages without delay.
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the Bill be now read a third time.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).The stringency of these proposals has been considerably modified in their passage through Committee, and to that extent they are, in my judgment, more acceptable. But, nevertheless, the Bill will operate in the most restrictive way in regard to immigrants coming here under contract. The very machinery and structure of the Bill will prove a formidable obstacle to the introduction of contract immigrants from oversea. Contracts will still have to be submitted to the Minister, and, in many cases, months of waiting will be involved. Much irritating investigation will be indulged in, and, altogether, the provisions of the Bill will operate to our prejudice. I do not think that many contract immigrants will come in under the Bill. Employers will not take the trouble to comply with all the conditions required, and immigrants will prefer to go elsewhere. If an immigrant comes with a legitimate contract in his pocket, and happens to land before examination, he will still be liable to have the contract voided, and incur all the penalties provided. To that extent the Bill is very unsatisfactory, from my point of view. I think we might have reached the desired end by means of the penalties provided for in the sub-clauses, which form the real kernel of the measure. For the rest, we might have relied upon the processes by which other wrong-doing is detected, and punished in the Commonwealth. We are making a new departure, and I am afraid that we shall find it to be an unsatisfactory one.
– What the honorable member for Parramatta has been pleased to call the stringency of this measure, has not been in any way modified. So far as it was stringent in the first instance, it remains so. It is less stringent than the original Act. But in another direction, the Committee at once took advantage of the happy suggestion made by the honorable member for North Sydney, and agreed to make a distinction in favour of persons of our own blood and race, as against the rest of the outside world.
– Surely the Prime Minister will admit that that amounts to relaxing the stringency of the measure in that particular.
– It does not relax it, nor is it intended to relax it, so far as the main purposes of the Bill are concerned. But it is intended to express our true sentiment towards our own kith and kin, and towards the Empire with which we are proud to be associated. I omitted to make an amendment which was suggested by the honorable member for Newcastle, extending the time within which questions could be put to immigrants. An opportunity will be presented during the transmission of the Bill to another place to reconsider our amendments and the general character of the Bill. I have to thank honorable members for having enabled us by sitting late tonight to conclude the consideration of the measure. The day is still young, and I hope we shall be able to devote a good deal more of It to still further useful work. I am particularly indebted to honorable members on this side of the Chamber for having so far sacrificed their convenience, and I am obliged to honorable members of the Opposition, who appear now to have recovered their urbanity.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Mr. SPEAKER announced receipt of the following message from the Senate -
Message No. 25.
The Senate, on the 6th December, 1905, agreed to the following resolution, viz. : - “ That the Senate ratifies an agreement entered into between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Eastern Extension Company, copy of which was laid on the Table of the Senate, 19th August, 1903, but only upon the following condition, namely, that instead of article 25 of the agreement, the following shall be article 25 thereof, that is to say : -
This agreement shall be in substitution for the two agreements and the provisional arrangement mentioned in the fourth recital of this agreement. This agreement shall expire on the 31st day of December, 1915.’
Provided further that the company shall within three months from the 1st January, 1906, execute the agreement as so amended.”
C. Baker, President.
The Senate, Melbourne, 7th December, 1905.
Ministers laid upon the table the following papers : -
Reports by Captain Creswell (a) in reply to questions asked by the Minister of Defence as to the formation of an Australian Navy; (4) upon Australian defence;(c) re submersibles or submarines.
Transfers approved by the Governor-General in Council under the Audit Act, financial year 1904-5 (dated 7th December, 1905).
Motion (by Mr. Deakin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I think that the officers of the House, especially the members of the Hansard staff, should receive special consideration at the hands of the Prime Minister. We have been sitting for a very long time, and I trust that everything possible will be done to show appreciation of the services which the officers have been called upon to render under conditions of extreme pressure.
– I should like to know whether the Prime Minister can hold out any hope of honorable members catching their trains this afternoon ?
– That will depend upon the progress made. I doubt whether honorable members will be able to leave for their homes at the usual time.
– We have had an exceptionally hard week, and as there has been no obstruction of any kind, I think that we might be permitted to return to our homes in the usual way. It is not unreasonable to ask that the House should adjourn until Tuesday next. We had no warning that we should be required to sit for such long hours this week, but we shall come fully prepared next week.
– I should like to direct the attention of the Government to the necessity for placing Parliament House in a sanitary condition.
– The Government are in correspondence with the State authorities on the subject.
– The present conditions are dreadful, and must be most unhealthy. It appears that we are waiting for the State Government to sewer the building, but I think that for our own sakes, and in order to make things decent - for that is the only word to use - it is incumbent on the Commonwealth Government to see that the sanitation is attended to at once. I believe that the sore throats which are prevalent amongst honorable members are largely attributable to the insanitary condition of the building. This matter ought certainly to be attended to in recess, and, the work, if not carried out by the State Government, ought to be undertaken by the Commonwealth Government.
– I desire to supplement the remarks of the honorable and learned member for Corio. On one’ or two evenings when we have had late sittings a number of honorable members, including myself, have suffered from sore throats, and, on consulting a medical man, I was informed that the cause was undoubtedly the insanitary condition of the building. If the State Government will not sewer the building, I think that the Commonwealth Government should undertake the work on behalf of the State.
– What business is it proposed to proceed with when we meet again at 10.30 a.m. ?
– The Electoral Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.35 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 December 1905, viewed 6 July 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19051207_reps_2_30/>.