10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Z. Newlands) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for
Postal purposes at Woodside, South Australia.
League of Nations - Agenda of the Seventh Session of the Assembly.
Northern Territory - Ordinance No. 15 of 1926- Meat Industry Encouragement (Poll).
Public Service Act - Regulation amended - Statutory Rules 1926, No. 86.
The following is the answer to those questions : - 1, 2, and 3. The houses referred to are hutments, containing cubicles and messing facilities, built some years ago. They are situated in front of the power-house, actually in Interlakeavenue. Renovation of these houses is impossible, for the reason that it is essential to clearthem away to permit of completing the construction of the avenue. The present occupants are being effectively housed elsewhere within reasonable distance of their work.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir William Glasgow) read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
It will be remembered that in 1924 a bill was passed providing for the building of a railway between Kyogle and South Brisbane and the strengthening of the existing railway between Grafton and Kyogle, which, when the bridge over the Clarence River - to be built by the State of New South Wales - is completed, will give a uniform gauge railway between Sydney and Brisbane. The history of the uniform gauge movement goes back quite a long way, but as it has already been placed before the Senate, it is not necessary for me to cover the whole of the ground again. It is sufficient for me to say that at a conference between the Prime Minister and the State Premiers in 1920, it was agreed that steps should be taken towards unifying the railway gauges of the mainland systems of Australia, and that the cost of the work should be borne in the proportion of onefifth by the Commonwealth, and fourfifths by the mainland States of Australia on a per capita basis. It was also agreed that the Commonwealth and States would abide by the decision of a royal commission comprising engineering experts, who were, by agreement, to be brought from England and America. These experts, after exhaustive investigations, submitted their report towards the close of 1921. They unanimously recommended 4 ft. 81/2 in. as the standard gauge, and, as the first stage, the linking of the capitals of Australia and the conversion of the broad gauge lines of Victoria and South Australia, at an estimated cost of £21,600,000. In this proposal was included the GraftonKyogleSouth Brisbane railway, estimated by the royal commissioners to cost £3,500,000, but now expected to cost approximately £4,000,000. The report of the royal commission was considered by the Prime Minister and the Premiers in conference in November, 1921,and again in January, 1922. It was unanimously agreed to adopt 4 ft. 81/2 in. as the standard gauge for the Australian railway systems. It was further agreed that -
The adoption of the uniform gauge was essential to the development and safety of the Commonwealth.
In May and June, 1923, shortly after the present Government came into power, a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers was held, but, as there was no possibility of arriving at agreement between the whole of the States concerned, a proposal was made to the States of New South Wales and Queensland, giving effect to a portion of the scheme recommended, which would link Sydney and Brisbane by -
The Commonwealth agreed to contribute one-fifth of the cost of the work, plus the amounts which Victoria, South Australia, and “Western Australia would have contributed if they had come into the scheme, subject to adjustment, as other similar works were undertaken later. New South Wales and Queensland respectively agreed to contribute towards four-fifths of the cost, in the proportion that the population of each of the two States bears to the total population of the five mainland States. The work agreed upon to be undertaken was the construction of 70 miles of railway in Queensland, and 27 miles in New South Wales, through heavy country, the cost naturally being high. The scheme included strengthening and relaying with 80-lb. rails the existing railway from North Grafton to Kyogle, a distance of 85 miles. This work is now well in hand. Between the South Grafton and the North Grafton railway stations . the Clarence River had to be bridged by the New South Wales Government. This is not part . of the uniform railway gauge scheme, but the work must be accomplished by the time the works comprised in the agreement are completed. The Grafton to South Brisbane Railway Act 1924 made the necessary financial provision, and, under section 4, the Commonwealth Treasurer was authorized to borrow moneys, not exceeding in the whole the sum of £3,500,000, together with such further sum as was necessary to meet discount and expenses of borrowing. Pending the borrowing of the money, the Commonwealth Treasurer was authorized,by section 6, to advance to the Uniform Railway Gauge Council, out of moneys in the Commonwealth public account sums not exceeding £3,500,000, which was the estimate submitted by the royal commission in 1921 of cost of providing the works referred to under the uniform gauge proposals necessary for giving a standard gauge connexion between Sydney and Brisbane. The agreement, ratified by Acts of Parliament in 1924, provided, amongst other matters, for the appointment of a council, consisting of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, the Chief Railways Commissioner for New South Wales, and the Commissioner for Railways, Queensland, which council has entire control of the work. Shortly after the appointment of the council, surveys were put in hand, and all necessary data prepared to enable a proper estimate to be arrived at. The council now advises that the work estimated by the royal commissioners to cost £3,500,000 will cost approximately £4,000,000. The estimate submitted by the royal commissioners was prepared on data submitted by the States and checked by them, but no proper surveys of the sections had been undertaken, and the estimate could only be regarded as approximate. It must be borne in mind that since 1921 industrial conditions have changed, rates of wages have gone up, hours of labour have been reduced, and many lines of materials used in railway construction now cost much more. As I have said, after the council was appointed, accurate data was obtained from surveys made, and it was found that the work, which had been estimated at £3,500,000, would cost not less than £4,000,000. Broadly speaking, of the £500,000 increase, £150,000 represents increased wages and decreased hours, and the balance may be ascribed to additional earthworks, &c, found to be necessary as the result of the surveys. The council was only authorized to spend £3,500,000, and when it was found that £4,000,000 was required, it represented the whole matter to the
Prime Minister. The work may be divided into four sections: -
Section 1. - ‘Relaying and regrading of existing line from Grafton to Kyogle. This work lias been in hand for some time under daylabour system ‘by the New South Wales Railway Department.
Section 2. - New construction, from Kyogle to the border.
Section 3. - New construction, from the border to the point near Rocklea, in Queensland.
Section 4. - New construction from Rocklea into South Brisbane; being undertaken by the Queensland Railway Department under daylabour system.
Public tenders were invited for the works in sections Nos. 2 and 3, and closed on the 1st September, 1925. Simultaneously with the closing of the tenders, the Chief Railway Construction Engineers of New South Wales and Queensland submitted sealed estimates for the work in their respective States. After consideration of the tenders and the estimates referred to, the council, which under the agreement is responsible for the work, decided to have the work referred to in both New South Wales and Queensland carried out by the respective Chief Railway Construction Engineers; but, as the financial provision under the Grafton to South Brisbane Railway Act 1924 was for £3,500,000 only, and the work, was subsequently estimated to cost £4,000,000, the council necessarily had to submit the whole matter to the Prime Minister, and also to the Premiers of New South Wales and Queensland, the representatives of the other two parties to the agreement under which the works are being undertaken. The Commonwealth Government considered the representations of the Railway Council, and, on the 26th September, 1925, the Prime Minister wrote to the Premiers of New South Wales and Queensland as follows: -
With reference to the letter of the 17th instant addressed to you by the Chairman of the Uniform Railway Gauge Council, Grafton- Kyogle-South Brisbane Railway, I have to advise that this Government Was carefully considered the position which has now arisen in connexion with the tenders recently received for carrying out the work between Kyogle and a point near South Brisbane.
In addition to tenders from two contractors, the Uniform Gauge Council received sealed estimates prepared by the Chief Railway Construction Engineer of your State, which were opened at the same time and treated by the council as tenders.
Whilst the contractors in their tenders guarantee to carry out the work at the fixed prices named, no undertaking or guarantee- has been given so far as the sealed estimates are concerned, and this Government can only agree to the construction within your State being undertaken by your Government upon a guarantee being entered into by you that the sealed estimate put in by your Chief Railway Construction Engineer is to be treated as a tender binding upon your Government, in the same way as an ordinary contractor is bound by the terms o.l his contract
Under this’ arrangement, your Government would be required to make good any excess amount due to the cost of the work being underestimated by your Chief Railway Construction Engineer. A correct comparison between departmental estimates and the public tenders would thus ‘be effected) and the parties to the agreement would be in a better position to determine the ultimate cost of the work.
My Government views with alarm the largely increased total estimated cost of the work, and it will be necessary to approach Parliament for a sum greatly in excess of the original estimate of £3,500,000. The action now suggested would enable Parliament to be approached with some confidence that the additional sum required can be relied upon as being sufficient to cover the necessary expenditure.
I snail “be glad of early advice as to the views of your Government in regard to this matter.
After negotiation between the Commonwealth and the Governments of Queensland and New South Wales, the Railway Council, arrived at agreements with the two States for carrying out the work in their respective territories, and the bill now before the Senate is to ratify these agreements. The details as to prices and amounts are to be found in the documents which were laid on the table of the Senate on the 28th May last. Under these agreements the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland are in the same position as outside contractors. An extract from the agreements reads - “ The Commonwealth agrees that it will take all steps necessary to have this contract ratified ‘by the Parliament of the Commonwealth as early as possible, and the said State agrees that it will take all steps necessary to have this contract ratified by the Parliament of the said State h.s early as possible”
The Commonwealth is advancing thi moneys in the first instance, and, as I said, the arrangement is that one-fifth is borne by the Commonwealth, the remaining four-fifths by the States on a per capita basis. For the time being the Commonwealth is bearing the share which, had all the States been parties to the agreement, would have been borne by Victoria, South Australia, and 0 Western Australia. The allocation is as follows : -
Thus the Commonwealth is, for the time being, responsible for £2,243,299, whilst New South Wales and Queensland are responsible for £1,756,701. These figures are, of course, only approximate. To date there has been expended in New South Wales on the Grafton-Kyogle section approximately £320,000, and in Queensland approximately £325,000 - a large sum on the Queensland side representing expenditure for acquisition of lands. On the section Kyogle to the border there has been expended on surveys and other work about £26,000. The railway will save transhipment at Wallangarra, and a journey of over 223 miles over the 3-ft. 6-in. line from Wallangarra to Brisbane. It will provide a fast line of uniform gauge between Sydney and Brisbane; will shorten the distance by 100 miles, and save from six to seven hours on the journey between Sydney and Brisbane. It will avoid the heavy grades over the Liverpool and New England Ranges in New South’ Wales, and the Great Dividing Range in Queensland. It will also greatly facilitate the transport of fruit and merchandise between the States. Last year 166,000 tons of goods were transhipped at Wallangarra, and over 110,000 interstate passengers had to change trains at the border. Special fruit trains now run daily from Brisbane to Wallangarra, and last year 40,000 tons of fruit wore transhipped at the border. In one year recently over 250,000 head of live stock were transhipped. The railway will be of great benefit to Australia. It will develop some of the richest of our territory, and will provide one of the uniform gauge works so urgently necessary for the development of our trade andcommerce.
– Has the Minister any figures concerning the quantity of luggage lost in transhipment at Wallangarra ?
-I have not.
– It is considerable.
– The railway, as I said, will open up very rich territory, and as it will also be the through railway from Sydney, it will carry a very heavy traffic. In the original agreement contained in the 1924 act, as passed by the Senate, provision is made for the moneys earned in excess of working expenses to be applied to the payment of interest; firstly, on the moneys advanced by the Commonwealth on behalf of the States; secondly, on the moneys for which New South Wales and Queensland are responsible; and thirdly, on the one-fifth share for which the Commonwealth is responsible. There will be a heavy revenue from the railway, a7id considerable sums should be available for meeting the interest charges.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 8th July (vide page 3929), on motion by Senator Pearce! -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I listened with a great deal of attention to the able speech delivered by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Pearce) when introducing this measure. If his speech was wanting in any respect, it was not due to any lack of capacity or oratory on the part of the right honorable gentleman, but almost entirely to certain inherent weaknesses in the case he presented to the Senate. I listened, also, with a great deal of interest to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham), and, although he indulged in what I might term some extravagances, still there was a good deal in his utterances with which I found myself in agreement. On thi* subject, as on many others that come before the Senate, the honorable senator was influenced by the attitude of the party to which he belongs, and for that reason was unable to express himself in the way he really desired. In spite of his unfortunate position, he presented .a fairly good case for his party, and, although he made many extravagant statements which could be most effectively replied to by honorable senators on this side of the chamber, I wish to congratulate him.
– Congratulations with reservations.
– Exactly ! The question of migration and land settlement is one which should be sanely considered. We should endeavour to disregard those fears and prejudices we hold on the question of immigration and the right of people of other countries to come to Australia and share in the conditions which we enjoy. Unfortunately, however, such an attitude seems to be almost impossible of adoption by many honorable senators, and parliamentarians generally. That, too, perhaps, is a reason why the Leader of the Opposition was restricted when speaking on the bill. I am not going to say that that attitude is confined to the members of one party, as I realize that there are extremists in every .political party.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that there are extremists in this chamber?
– Yes, and not only here, but in the political organizations outside, which are responsible for the establishment of the parties represented in this chamber. There are extremists in the ranks of the Labour party who fear that any considerable increase in migration will result in vitally affecting the whole conditions of labour in the Commonwealth. They point to the fact that, after long years of political work and agitation, industrial conditions have been established which more than favorably compare with those in any other part of the world. They fear that a considerable influx of migrants from any country where the industrial and general conditions are not as good as they are here will destroy the high standard which has been secured after laborious effort. This fear is not entirely groundless, as at all times there is a possibility of our civil and industrial conditions being adversely affected by an undue flow of immigrants from countries where the conditions generally are not at all comparable with ours. There are extremists who, perhaps, sup- s port honorable senators on this side of the chamber to a greater extent than they support honorable senators opposite. There are, for instance, some who say that we should throw open the doors to an unlimited flow of European immigrants irrespective of any conditions. There are others who say that, as we have such great open spaces, we should allow the peoples of any country to come here to assist to build up our future civilization. There are also extremists who would not stop at, perhaps, hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands coming to Australia, but who speak of immigration in millions. The excuse which they give - the necessity for preserving our national existence - is one which need only be briefly reflected upon to show that the remedy which they themselves suggest would result in Australians losing their national identity almost as completely as if we were successfully invaded. If the stream of immigration was of the dimensions they suggest, we would lose our national identity by becoming surrounded by a stream which would eventually overwhelm us. Those who would support such a policy are as extreme in their ideas as are those who support the policy of honorable senators opposite. The fears expressed by those who say that unless this country is populated more rapidly we may be overwhelmed by Asiatics, are groundless. They say that they will demand that the broad acres of Australia should be thrown open to them. Let us consider the possibilities. I know that many people fear an invasion by some Asiatic nation. The Minister who introduced this bill hinted at it. But an invasion by Asiatic people could only occur as a result of a carefully-conceived national policy of aggression, backed by force of arms. Such a policy calls for a . common nationality, or at least a noramon view-point regarding such a great undertaking. It would indeed be a great undertaking. Australia has established a record for the fighting qualities of her people, and any nation contemplating the invasion of this country would know that we would resist to the utmost. I a3k leave to continue my remarks at a later hour.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator J. F. Guthrie made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.
The President intimated that lie had received a letter from Senator Payne, asking to be relieved from attendance on the Printing Committee.
Motion (by Senator PEARCE). by leave, agreed to -
That Senator Payne be discharged from attendance on the Printing Committee, and that Senator Andrew be appointed a member of the committee in his stead.
– Where is the Asiatic nation that has that common nationality and that common view-point necessary to enable it to attempt the invasion of this country? The invasion of Australia would be an undertaking which could not be regarded lightly by any nation. To seize a portion of our territory and to hold and develop it would require a large army, a strong navy, and huge sums of money. When we consider the composition of the Asiatic nations, we must conclude that the fears of many people to-day regarding the probability of Australia being invaded by them are unfounded. It is true that China is a nation comprising over 400,000,000 people; but China’s people have not a common nationality or a common purpose. Whatever may be possible in the future, China to-day is unable to take concerted action in any direction. China has no disciplined army, and no effective navy, so that Australia has nothing to fear from that source. Like China, India is a country whose population runs into millions: but India’s millions have no common nationality or common purpose. Moreover, India does not possess the means by which Australia could be invaded. There remains one other Asiatic nation which might possibly attempt the invasion of Australia. I refer to Japan. I have, however, yet to be convinced .that there is any desire on the part of Japan to invade Australia and to hold it for her own purposes. While it is true that Japan has a large surplus population, there is more than the possibility of that surplus population finding an outlet in Korea and other places adjacent toJapan. Moreover, Japan’s financial position is such that we need not fear aggression from that source, for some time at least. I suggest, therefore, that the fears of those people who think that Australia is in danger of being invaded are almost entirely groundless. Yet, because of their fears of an Asiatic invasion, some are prepared to throw the doors wide open to the admission to Australia of white people of any nationality. Australia is only a small nation, whose capacity for absorption is limited. God forbid that the experience of the United States of America should be ours! That nation has carried out a policy of migration until it has almost entirely lost its capacity for absorption. In the United States of America there are large numbers of foreigners, not only in the great cities, but also in certain States, who defy absorption by the rest of the people.
– The trouble with the United States of America is not so much its inability to absorb a greater population, but to fulfil the desire to improve the race.
– These blocks of foreigners defy absorption. They have their own press, their own institutions, and their own language. They are nations within a nation. Their existence in the United States of America causes great difficulty in administration. Our experience would be the same, particularly in the event of international trouble arising. During the early years of the great war the United States of America was severely handicapped because of its large foreign population. It was impossible for the nation to arrive at a common purpose during those early years. In spite of repeated and severe blows at her national prestige and the fact that her national sentiment was outraged time after time by the German nation, the United States of America found it impossible for some years to take a definite stand regarding her entry into the conflict. That was due to the existence within her borders of a large foreign population. Eventually she was able to overcome her difficulties. We in Australia were similarly situated, although to a lesser extent. We had here a number of centres where the population was almost entirely German. Most of them were excellent citizens, who were assisting in a magnificent way to develop this country, particularly in regard to its primary production; but they were torn between conflicting emotions - the love of their Fatherland and their duty to this country, which had given them a home. Australia was faced with grave difficulties because of the existence of those Germans - an enemy population - within her borders. Drastic steps were taken to deal with the situation, and as a result great bitterness was occasioned. Unfortunately, that bitterness still exists. We saw it exemplified recently in the Hume electorate and a few other places in connexion with the last Federal election. It will, therefore, be seen that in these matters we must be . exceedingly careful. To-day, there are in Australia, particularly in Queensland, large numbers of people of Italian origin who have taken up land. They may be admirable citizens, working hard to produce sugar and other things, but to a great extent they have so far resisted absorption in the rest of the population. They retain their own language, their own institutions, and, I am informed, their own schools also.
– No; they shave no schools of their own, but one or two clubs only.
– I have been informed that they have their own schools; but if they have not, so much the better. Nevertheless, it will be many years before these Italians are completely absorbed into the population. Already considerable discussion has taken place regarding these Italian settlements, and difficulties have confronted the administration. That being so, it is evident that a largely-increased flow of Italian migrants would increase the difficulties, particularly in the event of complications arising with Italy. Already there is a possibility of international trouble with Italy. Recently the Mackay branch of the Australian Workers Union took a definite stand towards Italian canegrowers that is calculated to cause inter national complications. That branch resolved that no Italian-grown sugar should be crushed at the Plain Creek Mill, and that its members should not handle cane grown by Italians who have purchased farms within the last nine months. The object, of course, is to crush out Italian sugar-cane growers in the Mackay district.
– Of 400 farmers supplying cane to that mill, only ten or twelve are Italians.
– That makes the position worse.
– It is a form of tyranny.
– If the Australian Workers Union members refuse to handle cane grown by Italian farmers, those men will be unable to continue as producers. If this attitude is persisted in to any extent - and when once this business starts heaven only knows where it willend - it will be impossible to say what may happen.
– Certainly it is likely to create an international situation.
– That is the point I am making. I see in this action by the Mackay branch of the Australian Workers Union the germ of grave international difficulties. We must recognize the danger that confronts Australia if, as has been urged, we throw open wide our doors to immigrants from Europe, and if at the same time labour organizations by their attitude towards migrants create difficulties of this nature. I am aware, of course, that the attitude of the Mackay branch of the Australian Workers Union is not generally endorsed by the Labour party. Recently Mr. Brennan, a Labour representative in another place, declared - and his statement has never been denied in the press - that a good Italian was better than the average Englishman we are getting under present migration schemes. I cite Mr. Brennan’s published utterance to show that the attitude of the Australian Workers Union branch referred to is not shared by all sections of labour thought. Mr. Brennan is a gentleman of Irish extraction; but it is not held, even by all Irishmen, that Italians are better immigrants than Britishers. Recently I read an interesting little story in a book which I obtained from the Parliamentary Library, entitled, “ Some More Memoirs,” by G. B. Bergin. I should like to tell the story without in any way identifying myself with it, because it is the opinion of an Irishman, and 1 think it is worth while to put it on record. It appears that on one occasion six Italian labourers were trying to move a heavy steel rail in’ New York. Their united efforts being unsuccessful, the Irish foreman directed two of his own countrymen to attempt the task, and they carried the rail away with the greatest of ease. The foreman, so the story runs, looked contemptuously at the puny Italians, and then said, “ Them’s the dam things they make popes out of in their own country.” So much for that. I say that we cannot afford to take the risk of encouraging a considerable influx of people from Italy or any other European country. We are justly proud of our Anglo-Saxon heritage, and I am pleased to know that the Government proposes to restrict its immigration activities under this bill to migrants of the British race. From what I have said, it will be seen that it is highly desirable to tighten up the restrictions with .regard to the admission of people of other nations, so that we may be able’ to give British migrants under this scheme a better deal. I realize, of course, that this policy bristles with difficulties, chief amongst which is the pride of other nations. There is another matter which should not be lost sight of. I refer to the socialistic propaganda, which must also be considered when we are discussing the restriction of immigration from other countries. We have heard a great deal about the universal brotherhood of man, and of the slogan “ Workers of the world unite.” Those things have all to be reckoned with. Some members of the Labour party, at all events, find themselves in an anomalous position in regard to immigration, because many of their supporters preach the universal brotherhood of man,and many who are responsible for the maintenance of labour organizations do not believe in discrimination against the people of other countries. They argue that they are all workers of the world, and that one is as good as another. As proof of this, I need only recall the discussion that took place at the recent Labour conference in London. That gathering was attended by representatives of labour organizations from practically all the countries of Europe, and when migration was under review they challenged the right, of Australia to restrict migration. To their, credit be it said, the delegates from Australia promptly accepted the challenge, and defended Australia’s right to prohibit the introduction of any people, who, it is believed, will not make good citizens. I mention these incidents to show how careful we should be in all migration schemes. I turn now to the agreement itself, and I find it difficult to interpret its provisions. I am not alone in this. Other honorable senators, including members of the legal fraternity, are in much the same position. It is almost impossible to say what it means and how it will work out. Why was the agreement couched in such ambiguous language? Surely it was possible to draw up an agreement in language so simple as to be understood by every one. I can see great trouble in this matter before we have gone very far. However, the proposal is to restrict the scheme to British migrants, and we may take it that there will be considerable increase in the stream of British immigrants during the next few years.
– That is very much to be desired.
– It is almost certain that there will be a considerable increase of migrants from the Mother Country. Whether it will be so great that we shall lose our Australian national identity,, it is difficult to say, but figures relating to the natural increase and the increase due to immigration in the years 1920 to 1925 inclusive will give us some indication of what may happen.- They are as follow : -
Natural increase- 1920, 80,117; 1921, 82,122; 1922, 86,185; 1923, 78,988; 1924, 79,947; 1925, 81,224.
Net immigration- 1920, 27,606; 1921, 15,654; 1022, 38,023; 1923, 37,540; 1924, 43,749; 1935, 37,357.
Total increases - 1920, 107,723: 1921, 97,776; 1922, 124,208; 1923, 116,656; 1924, 123,696; 1925, 118,581.
These figures show that if the net immigration figures are’ trebled the increase in population due to migration will be very much greater than the growth of population due to our natural increase. This prospect cannot be regarded with complete equanimity by any true Australian.
– The migrants will be our own kith and kin.
– Perhaps they will, but we are rather proud of our Australian national identity, and we do not wish to lose it entirely.
– Does the honorable senator think that British migrants will lower our standard?
– No, but my point is that for many years we have been building up a distinct Australian nationality. Its outstanding characteristics were discernible in the men of the Australian Imperial Force, and we should endeavour by every means to preserve it.
– I hope we shall never forget from whence we sprang.
– I hope so, too. It is undoubtedly true that there is a very large reservoir of British immigration for Australia to draw upon. I take the following from a speech delivered by Mr. Bankes Amery, the British Government representative for migration, as published in the press of the 2nd July: -
It is not, perhaps, generally realized that no less than 303,000 (net) citizens of the United Kingdom elected to leave for overseas during the year 1913, i.e., the last complete year before the war. During this year there was practically no unemployment at Home; but the population of Great Britain, having been accustomed for centuries to migrate to parts of the world where opportunities are greater, continued that process right up to the time at which the war broke out. Ofthe 303,000 citizens, 44,500 (net) came to Australia. During the war, no migration could naturally take place; and in post-war years, owing to economic and other difficulties, the rate of migration from Great Britain has never even approached pre-war levels. For instance, in the year 1924 the net migration only amounted to 91,000, and in 1925 to 84,000. Of these, 30,000 came to Australia in 1924, and 27,000 in 1925.
It will be seen from those figures that; roughly, 331/3 per cent. of the immigrants that have arrived in Australia during the last few years have come from Great Britain. I have said that it is difficult to estimate what the increase will be under this new agreement, because the Imperial Government has entered into a similar agreement with Canada, New Zea land, and Rhodesia, and doubtless a large number of British migrants will prefer to go to those countries. But there can be no doubt that the increase in our case will be fairly considerable. I shall now deal with the class of migrant that Australia desires, and the type that we are likely to get under this agreement, unless we exercise’ extreme care. I think it will be agreed that we do not want men who will remain in our already overcrowded cities. We need men who will engage in the work of primary production and allied industries. The supply of migrants who are suitable for that class of work is strictly limited. It can, therefore, be asserted with justification that that is not the class of which Great Britain is anxious to rid herself. She is faced with the problem of grappling with the decline in her agricultural industry.
– The agreement indicates that this is the very phase to which we shall direct our attention.
– It does.But Great Britain cannot assent to a large number of those who possess a knowledge of the principles of primary production emigrating to Australia or some other country. On the other hand, she has to handle the much more pressing problem of unemployment,which to-day exists almost from one end of Great Britain to the other. Millions of her people are unemployed.
– I question that. The latest figures show that the number is only a little over 1,000,000.
– The number is 1,500,000.
– The latest figures that I have seen show that over 1,000,000 are receivinga dole, and the whole of the unemployed are not included in that number. I believe that I am correct in saying that in Great Britain millions of people are at present unemployed to a greater or less extent. Our sympathies go out to those who are in that position. That is the class of person which the British Overseas Settlement Committee is anxious to send to Australia.
– The fact that they are unemployed does not necessarily imply that they are unsuitable.
– In some respects, unfortunately, it does. Many poor, hap- less individuals have been, more or less, unemployed since the termination of the war, during which period, as honorable senators are aware, an acute depression has existed in Great Britain.
– Because she shouldered the burden of the war.
– Of course she did. It is a natural consequence of the war. Many men and women who have been living upon the dole have lost, not only the power, but also the desire to work. We witnessed a similar spectacle in Australia,. I am not attempting to slight in any way those who are unemployed in Britain ; I am sorry for them.
– Cannot those who have come out work as well as the honorable senator or I?
– Some of them can; but that is not the type of man who will come out under this scheme.
– Why not?
– They came out either as nominated immigrants or because they preferred the wider opportunities which Australia offered. Many of them were not out of work. Proof of that is furnished by the fact that they had to contribute a certain sum towards their passage money.
– The other day I met a man who had been out of work for two years in England, and I should not care to pit my capacity for work against his.
– I know that there are exceptions. I agree that the majority of those who come to Australia would make admirable citizens in any country to which they went.
– Is the honorable senator opposed to the bill?
– No. I am supporting it.
– The honorable senator appears to think that we are likely to get a poor class of migrant.
– I am afraid that unless proper supervision is exercised we shall get the type of man that we do not want, because it is that type that the British Government desires to have taken off its hands.
– Every migrant has to be approved by a representative of the Australian Government.
– The Minister has frequently told us that the system of selecting migrants is all right, and that only in individual cases are unsuitable persons sent to Australia. I wish that I could believe it. I have seen evidence that proves to me that many migrants of an inferior type have come to Australia.I do not contend that they represent a large perecentage of the total number. In my opinion, the great majority will prove a credit to Australia, as they were a credit to the country from which they came. But if it is possible for what I have complained of to occur under our present system, what is likely to be the result if the supervision is not tightened up?
– Some persons ought not to be members of Parliament. Does the honorable senator, on that account, condemn Parliament?
– No; but the electors ought to be condemned for not having exercised a better supervision. It is evident,in spite of the protests of the Minister and the Government, that a certain amount of laxity has been displayed in the administration of our immigration policy.
– Where does the fault lie?
– In the system of inspection. Probably the officials in Great Britain are more largely to blame than are those at this end.
– I understand that the inspection has been very strict.
– I have drawn my conclusions from the results.
– Only two in every 1,000 migrants are unsuitable.
– The proportion is higher than that. There are many cases of which we do not hear. I am prepared to admit that perhaps 90 per cent. of those who come to Australia are everything that they should be. But the fact that a small proportion of our migrants ought not to have been sent out here proves that there has been lax supervision, which it ought to be possible to remedy.
– That can be rectified. Unsuitable migrants can, under the law, be sent back to the country from which they came.
– I admit that it is possible to rectify it. The necessity for returning certain “ migrants is a proof that there has not been a proper supervision.
– What will bc the total liability of the Commonwealth under this agreement?
– I do not know. Oan the honorable senator inform me?
– I do not think that anybody can.
– It is impossible to tell. With an agreement drawn up in such ambiguous terms, Heaven alone knows to what expenditure wc shall be committed. It is for that reason that I urge that care be exercised in its administration, and that a more strict and effective supervision be put into operation, because the men of whom Great Britain is anxious to rid herself are not likely to prove an asset to Australia.
– It is to the advantage of Great Britain to distribute the population of the Empire upon as even a basis as possible.
– I hope so; but it is certain that Great Britain will not send to Australia the best of her sons nor the class of man who is likely to prove beneficial to her.
– The selection will be made by representatives of this, and not of the Imperial Government.
– Will the Minister deny that the Australian Government will, under this agreement, act in cooperation with the Imperial authorities, and will he affirm that the British authorities will have no say in the selection of men. who are sent to Australia?
– The honorable senator is insinuating that the Imperial Government is desirous of taking advantage of us by sending out “ culls.” That is not correct, and it is a most unfair statement to make.
– I do not lay that charge against the Imperial Government. I am speaking generally of the class of migrant that we are likely to get under the agreement.
– The class is a good one.
– It may be. What I am arguing is that Ave are likely to have sent to us those who cannot make any headway in Great Britain. We want men who will engage in primary production and not remain in the city. Those who are sent out here_ under the agreement will come from the cities of Great Britain. It is proposed that centres in which they can be trained in primary production shall be established. Without wishing to reflect in any way upon these unfortunate individuals, I say that, for all practical purposes, many of them are un trainable.
– The bulk of the migrants who come to Australia go into the country.
– That may be the case now ; but we are proposing a largely augmented scheme. Does the Minister suggest that the whole of those who will come out under this agreement will go into the country?
– I do not suggest that foi* a moment. It is not possible under any scheme.
– A scheme should be evolved for tightening up the supervision. It is necessary to-day, and it will be even more necessary when this scheme is put into operation. That statement may be resented by some honorable sena-, tors, but I contend that it is a wise policy. I am not suggesting that the Government will not take steps to have the methods of supervision tightened up. I believe that it will.
– Of the assisted immigrants who have arrived this year only 15 per cent, were unemployed at the date of selection.
– If we can continue on those lines everything will be all right, but we are likely to have a largely augmented stream of immigration. A minister assures “me, by interjection, that everything will be all right under the terms of the agreement; but I have read it, and I cannot interpret it to my satisfaction in certain respects. Neither can Senator McLachlan, who is a leading light in the legal world. Other honorable senators are in exactly the same position. Therefore I urge upon the Government the need for extreme care in the selection of migrants. I believe it will recognize that necessity. I have already referred to the Overseas Settlement Committee of Great Britain. It_ has been found possible in Great
Britain to remove migration from the arena of party politics, and secure in the British House of Parliament the formation of a committee representative of all parties to deal with the question. One of its most prominent members is Mr. William Lunn, who was Minister in charge of emigration during the regime of the MacDonald Government. The negotiations for the £34,000,000 loan were for the most part conducted by him. Mr. Thomas, M.P., and other prominent members of the British Labour party, such as Mr. Clyne, Mr. Sydney Webb, and Dr. Haden Guest are also on the committee. It should be possible for us in this Parliament to secure an agreement between all parties for the formation of a committee representative of all parties similar to the British parliamentary committee -dealing with emigration. We should then have working, in cooperation with the Minister dealing with immigration matters, a committee of members of this Parliament considering any phases of the question that might arise from time to time, and giving at the same time a guarantee to all sections of the community that the business is being conducted on the right lines, and that the dangers, which some of us foresee in the application of this scheme, are being avoided as far as possible. Such a committee would remove the whole question of immigration out of the arena of party politics. I believe that the suggestion is worthy of acceptance by the Government. Certainly it is worth trying. We are not too proud to be guided by the experience of Great Britain, and I think it is well- worth trying here something that has been found to work successfully in the British Parliament. I have always taken an active interest in immigration affairs, and I should like to’ see the Government appoint a committee on the lines I have suggested. In fact, so strongly do I feel on the matter that in committee I am willing to move for the insertion of a clause to provide for the appointment of an advisory committee representative of all parties in this Parliament to act in co-operation with the Minister.
– Would the honorable senator suggest the appointment of that committee in addition to the commission ?
– Yes. The commission proposed in the bill will be a small commission of about four. That small body of men will be entrusted with the task of surveying the whole field of Australia, summarizing its resources and potentialities, and showing where opportunities exist for the employment of immigrants. I am afraid the task will be too big for them. Therefore, I am anxious to have another body created dealing, not sp much with the question of the settlement of immigrants when they come here, but with the generalproblem from the stand-point of Parliament and the Minister himself. It will also be too big a problem for a minister to handle, acting without advice other than that of his responsible officers. I think it would be well worth while lifting this question out of the arena of party politics by creating a parliamentary committee like that in Great Britain, which does not touch the work that the commission proposed to be appointed by this bill will carry on, but is merely an advisory committee to the British 5linistry. As I .have said, I am prepared in committee to give the Senate an opportunity to see whether or not my suggestion is worth accepting, but in the meantime I have much pleasure in giving my support to the second reading of the bill.
– I am pleased that the honorable senator is supporting the bill.
– I have been Supporting it all along, but I am not one of those who give an unqualified support to a measure in which they may see dangers. I have pointed out what I consider are the dangers in this bill, as it is my duty to. While I urge on the Government the need for taking steps to remove the difficulties and dangers to which I have drawn attention, I can give my general support to the bill. I hope that the second reading will be carried.
– I feel sure that most honorable senators who listened to the speech that Senator Duncan has just delivered, for some little time misunderstood him. I could see plainly enough the object of the honorable senator in pointing out the dangers with which .immigration is attended, and which this bill is devised to correct.
– But will it do so?
– I think that the Government has taken the most effective means of correcting the dangers attaching to the selection of suitable immigrants for Australia, by the appointment of a commission. That is the gist of the whole business. I do not share the puzzlement of the honorable senator in regard to the agreement itself. Although it is a long time since I have seen the agreement, the State which I help to represent was the first to sign it. I am proud to say that Western Australia has always held a foremost place in regard to immigration, and still holds that place. It is naturally keener than the other States to introduce immigrants, because it has a good deal more to offer intending immigrants on more reasonable terms than can be offered by the more thickly populated States. These States already do not look upon their overcrowded cities with too favorable an eye, and their rural land is very much harder and more expensive to obtain than is rural land in Western Australia.
– Western Australia is in a better position in thatrespect than the other States.
– Exactly ; and so far it has made very good use of its advantage in that respect. . The only fault I have heard found with the agreement in Western Australia is that, contrary to most agreements we have made with the Mother Country, this is a very businesslike one, under which Great Britain does not incur any liability or accept any risk until the goods have been delivered. But that is only a fair and reasonable condition which, if we are in earnest in this matter, we shall not fail to honour. I am not going to say very much about the part of the bill that deals with immigration. It appeals to me very much, but the development part of the measure appeals to me still more. All J have to say about immigration is that I dread the artificial aspect with which it is being surrounded. We can realize this when we remember the class of immigration in the early days. The people who came here then did so because they had a love of adventure and a desire for a- wider scope in life:
– They were attracted here.
– They were not attracted here in anything like the way in which they are being attracted at the present time. I am frightened that, if immigration is made much more generous there is a possibility of its being exploited. I hold the same apprehension of danger in that respect, as Senator Duncan holds, but I have such confidence in the commonsense of the authorities in the country which is sending the immigrants, andin the country which is appointing a body to select those immigrants and look after them, that I believe no great danger can be feared in that direction. The only thing I am frightened of is that too many inducements may be held out so that people may take up a new profession, that of being immigrants. I can speak of an experience we had in Western Australia under the operations of the Industries Assistance Board, which was appointed to foster and finance settlers. That board was most generous. It paid the full value of all improvements’ effected on a farm, a thing which no financial institution would do, and it paid practically current rates of wages to the men who were working their farms. The result was that, to a certain extent, a class of persons arose who were, as was known in the country districts of Western Australia at the time, living on the board. If things turned out all right after they had developed their farms, and being well paid for doing so, they could sell out. If things went the other way - if they reached an impasse beyond which they could go no further, and if they could not repay the advances made by the board. they could simply say, “ There is your old farm, take it. We are done with it.” Then they could walk out, with no anchor to hold them. We must always have some little hold on a person we are benefiting, and, therefore, I look to the commission to be appointed to see that proper terms are imposed in the case of the immigrants we have to attract. I think it would be unwise and undiplomatic to place in this bill any restriction in regard to nationalities. That is a question which is much wider than immigration. It is an international question which must be dealt with in a diplomatic manner by the Government of the Commonwealth. If any difficulty arises in that connexion I should certainly not empower the commission to deal with it. I do not think it would be right to do so. It is a question as between Australia, the Motherland, and the allegedly aggrieved country. But I do not expect that, for years to come, any difficulty of the kind will arise. It is always a great pleasure to me to take the opportunities, which are not too frequent, of supporting bills for developmental purposes as against the restrictive legislation of which recently we have had so much. We get too many bills telling us what we may do, or what we may not do, and too few which have a decided effect upon the development of the industries, and population of this country. Therefore, I welcome this bill very heartily. Although I have merely touched on the fringe of the subject, I have said all I wish to say in regard to immigration, except to add that’ the details are to be left, subject to the approval of the Government, to the decision of the commission to be appointed under the bill. If honorable senators will permit me, I should like to again mount a hobby I have ridden, here before, and refer to some of the industries which might well engage the attention of that commission. We in Australia are really one of the most conservative peoples that inhabit the earth. We are so satisfied in doing what our fathers did before us, without any regard to the creation of new industries in Australia, that we overlook their existence in other countries. Sometimes this conservative view is so strongly held that those who advocate the establishment of new industries in Australia, although successfully operating in other parts of the world, gain the reputation of being faddists, .and may be accused of being monomaniacs in certain .directions. I have incurred that risk, and have achieved as much of that reputation as it is possible for me to carry. If more is thrust upon me, it will fall ofl of its own weight, but will still leave me with the quantity of faddism that I have already accumulated. There are many industries that we might well endeavour to foster in Australia, and I trust that when the proposed commission is appointed it will do its best to create in Australia a series of what I have already alluded to as domestic industries. The experience of the world has shown that the prosperity of any country depends upon the small holder who is wedded to his, country by the natural anchor to which I have already alluded. We have only to consider the peasantry of France and what it has done in that country. We have only to study the wonderful results obtained, not only in France, but also in other European countries, especially Italy, to see that the small holder is a great asset to any country. In Australia we are too much wedded to the idea of large open spaces, whilst other countries adopt a policy of intense culture. “Victorians particularly will remember the great task of one of the world’s greatest irrigationists, who was for some years in this country, Mr. Elwood Mead. Having completed his irrigation scheme, he could not obtain the necessary number of settlers to occupy the land it was proposed to irrigate. He had to scour the world for those people, and only with the greatest difficulty succeeded in securing a sufficient number. Honorable senators are aware of what is being done in New South Wales, where the huge irrigation settlements there afford one of the best examples of domestic industry we have seen. I do not think any one can gainsay the merits of domestic industries, and I hope the commission, when appointed, may tackle this problem. The fruit-growing industry has been hampered by the difficulties and dangers of marketing, which have, in consequence df the activities of the Government, been to some extent overcome, but similar disadvantages exist in connexion with almost any industry. Difficulties, however, only exist to be overcome, and they can be overcome if tackled in a business-like way. There are certain industries to which I have alluded on other occasions, and to which I have no compunction in referring again. I ask the Government if the persons to be appointed to the commission will give some thought to the cheapening of . the food supplies of this country. Is it not worth while giving further attention to the fishing industry of Australia? I am sorry that Senator Findley is temporarily absent, because he has accused me of thinking more about fish than blowflies. Although he is not present I reiterate the statements I have made on other occasions in spite of his buzzing. In connexion with the fishing industry there is an enormous field for improvement, and, as I have already informed honorable senators - not without some little knowledge of the subject, as it is one iti which I have taken interest for many years - our methods are years, aye generations, behind those of other countries. The price of fish, which is normal in other countries, is abnormal here, and it would redound to the credit of any government to remedy this crying evil.When I speak of the development of our fisheries, I refer also to the development of the maritime industries of Australia. In America for many years not only the edible but non-edible fish have been treated, and fertilizers leather, and oils are produced from this source. Hundreds of boats and thousands of people are employed in this industry, and the policy of that country is one we could well emulate. We have immense numbers of non-edible fish in Australian waters which could be used for the manufacture of fertilizers, leather, and oils, all of which commodities are urgently needed here. The attention of the commissioners’ to be appointed should be directed to the necessity of exploiting this and other avenues of occupation instead of devoting too much attention to the industries already well established. Years ago, and to a greater extent in recent times the Scottish fisheries were seeking an outlet for their skilled men, who could not find sufficient employment in Scotland. Such men would be ready to come here if it could be shown that they could be provided with profitable employment. We should not expect Scottish fishermen to come to Australia, to them a strange country, to deal with unaccustomed species of fish in order to establish the industry. The least we can do is to have a stocktaking of our resources, have a rough survey made, in order to determine the cost of operating this industry. If the industry were given assistance, it would not be long before there would be an additional 60,000 to 100,000 persons on our coast, profitably employed in supplying a commodity urgently needed in this country.
– How does the honorable senator suggest that the industry should be encouraged?
– In the first place, by prospecting trawlers.
– Through the agency of the Government?
– Through the same agency as is employed in other civilized countries.
– Only by trawling?
– No ; also in other investigation. We know nothing whatever concerning the possibilities of the fishing industry on the Australian coast, as our fishermen do not go beyond the bays and estuaries, where the supplies are already depleted. The fishing industry in Australia should be organized, and the Government, through its various agencies, should conduct the necessary investigations, in order to find out what we have to offer. The fishing industry is, I consider, one of the most necessary for the welfare of our people. In offering a special opportunity to a special class of migrants, we need not go beyond the Empire. On the coast of Scotland we could get thousands of men to whom the conditions in Australia as compared with those under which they had been working would be a paradise. Usually, the conditions in the North Sea, and also the temperature, are against them. Surely it is reasonable to expect that some consideration be given to an industry such as this, which calls aloud for encouragement. There is another important industry which I have not mentioned very often, but which is of equal importance. I refer to the production of tobacco. There are three classes of tobacco, viz., cigar tobacco, which is grown almost exclusively in the tropics; pipe tobacco, produced in more or less temperate zones at a comparatively low price-
– There are only two kinds of tobacco -good and bad.
– I am submitting a different classification. The third type, and one which has grown in favour, particularly in recent years, is cigarette tobacco. For many years Greece was largely a wheat-producing country, but the Greeks found, to their benefit-, that land which was suitable to the production of wheat was equally suitable to the growing of cigarette tobacco. In that country, the production of cigarette tobacco has become a national industry. The Morea, the main portion of Greece from which the other portions radiate, has now ceased to become a wheat-producing country, as those who were profitably producing that cereal have turned their attention to the production of cigarette tobacco. This tobacco can be profitably grown on wheat lands, and more especially on land that is too wet for wheat. Honorable senators will therefore realize the immense opportunities awaiting us in years to come - wheat will not always be the price it is to-day - in the production, at all events, of tobacco of this particular type, for which there is a big demand in Australia.. This is another industry to which the commissioners should devote their attention. I have had a good deal of experience of immigration generally. First, as the administrator of a department which for a good many years controlled immigration in Western Australia, when I found that there were two circumstances which controlled successful immigration. The first is that the immigration agents employed abroad should tell the truth about the country to which the immigrants are coming; and, secondly - which is even more important - that immigrants intending to come to Australia should tell the truth about themselves. There is often a change of character and of intention between the time that the migrant leaves the shores of Britain and’ his arrival in Australia. People who come out with the declared intention of settling on the land frequently find positions in our big city emporiums. In this connexion, I have frequently been greatly disappointed. Some years ago, in an endeavour to establish the cork-growing industry in Western Australia, I arranged for the introduction to that State of five or six families of Spaniards from the cork-growing districts of Spain. They were Spanish enough when they arrived. Not one of the party could speak a word of English, and instead of hats the ladies of the party wore mantillas. When I looked upon, these immigrants I could, in imagination, see groves of cork oaks growing in Western Australia in a district which I knew was well suited for the purpose. But, alas, instead of growing cork oaks, they established fish shops, and the industry which I hoped to establish in Western Australia was lost. It is now probably too late to start the cork-growing industry in Australia, because a number of substitutes for cork have been found in the meantime; but had it been started then, it would to-day be flourishing, and the people engaged in it, chiefly by rea son of the high prices paid for cork during and since the war, would be distributed among our prosperous settlers. I do not know whether it is possible to guard against the change of intention to which I have referred. All that we can do is to be careful as to the migrants who are selected. There is another class of migrant to which no reference has yet been made during this debate, but which I regard as most valuable to Australia. I refer to boy and girl migrants. For twelve or fourteen years I have been connected with the Fairbridge Farm School in Western Australia which, despite great difficulties and very little encouragement, has been eminently successful. Many boys who entered that institution at the age of eight or ten years, now own their own farms and work them well. When they are able to take a holiday, many of them return to the school where they were reared and do their best to encourage the boys and girls there now to follow in their footsteps. An adult migrant has much to unlearn. It is a. difficult matter to get him to forget things; it is more difficult to teach him the things that he has to learn. Those difficulties do not exist in the case of boys who come to this country at the age of eight or ten years, and are reared among Australians until they reach the age when they are no longer compelled to attend school. By that time, the young Britisher has grown into an Australian possessing a knowledge of Australia, and knowing what he is about to undertake when he settles on the land. Senator Barwell, when Premier of South Australia, inaugurated a similar scheme there.
– Does the honorable senator think that that type of migrant will be brought out under this scheme?
– I hope that a fair proportion of such migrants will be brought out.
– Does the honorable senator approve of families being brought out ? That, in my opinion, is the .best immigration policy.
– Yes. I want to bring out people who will be anchored here, not only for their own benefit, but also for the benefit of Australia. I agree with the Leader of the Senate that no country in the world - in the temperate zone at least - presents such opportunities to men with little capital as does Australia. We have the open spaces and the glorious climate; all that we need is the producer. I regret that it is necessary to go outside our own borders to get this country settled. There is, unfortunately, a tendency, not only in Australia but throughout the world, for people to flock to the cities. That is one of the curses of the world.
– That tendency is greater in Australia than elsewhere.
– The fictitious attractions of the city are too great for some to withstand. In my opinion, most city occupations do not tend to make a country great. I am, as honorable members may have recognized from my attitude during a recent debate in this Chamber, a strong believer in the country life of Australia. I do not think that any country can ever be made great solely by men depending upon wages. This country, and indeed every country, can only be made great by individual efforts of persons working for themselves. I realize that we must have a certain proportion of our population employed as wage earners, but the ambition of every man should be to do something for himself. Employment as a wage earner should be used as a stepping stone towards independence and prosperity. I should like to think that Australians regarded employment under wages more as a stepping stone to higher things than as an objective to be reached. Holding those sentiments, I have no hesitation in supporting this bill. I can see the dangers which Senator Duncan has pointed out as clearly as he can; but, being more of an optimist than he is, I look upon this legislation, if administered properly, as a means of accomplishing much.
– The honorable senator has made an important qualification.
– A great deal depends on the proper administration of any legislation. The honorable senator knows that, although we may pass legislation with the best of intentions, it frequently happens that it no sooner becomes law than other people pick holes in it, until it resembles a fishing net more than anything else. That is true, particularly of restrictive legislation. I believe that all sections in this Chamber desire to approach this legislation in the right spirit, and that the gentlemen to be appointed to administer it will do their best to carry out its spirit, and to overcome those obstacles to which reference has been made. Development and population are inseparable. We cannot, have migration without development, although we can have development without migration. Australia is badly in need of development, in order that employment may be found for those already here who are at a loose end, and do not know in which direction to turn. If only to relieve unemployment, that portion of the bill dealing with development is justified. I have no hesitation in supporting the bill, the results from which I hope will be equal to the expectations of the most confirmed optimists.
– There is much in this bill which appeals to me. I am an Australian, and desire to see Australian sentiment encouraged. In order to hold this great continent we must have population. What better population could we obtain than people of our own kith and kin? I take exception to Senator Duncan’s remark that Senator Needham, when dealing with this bill, spoke not his own thoughts, but the views of the Labour party. Was Senator Duncan expressing his own views or the views of honorable members on his side of the chamber? For Australia to be a self-contained nation, a much greater population is necessary. I am satisfied that hitherto . the right class of migrant has not always been chosen. That is a result of bad selection. Many of those who have come here have done so under a misapprehension regarding Australian conditions. I am not prepared to say that there has been deliberate misrepresentation, but I say fearlessly that many migrants who have been selected as land settlers in Australia had, at the time of their selection, never seen a plough or been on a farm. Is it any wonder that they have proved failures in Australia ?
– That is not their fault, but the fault of the system.
– That is so. I do not blame a man for wanting to escape from uncongenial surroundings in the Old World and to get to sunny Australia, but something is wrong when migrants selected as trained farm labourers are found on arrival here to know nothing about farming. When they realize their unfitness for the work for which they have been selected, they are forced either to accept positions as apprentices on farms or to seek other employment. The result is harmful. Some of these migrants may for two or three seasons work for a mere pittance on farms rather than be thrown out of employment.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.
– I agree that if we are to ensure the development of Australia on satisfactory lines, we should secure the best type of migrants. Before the luncheon adjournment I saidI was afraid that in many instances there was something wrong with the method of selection in Great Britain. I have in mind the case of one man, and I suppose that was not the only case, who made application for an assisted passage under the Government’s migration scheme. He was selected and approved, but prior to his departure it was ascertained that he had been a cab-driver in London and probably had never been on a farm in his life. However, he was apprenticed for a fortnight to a farmer in the west of England in order to gain a little experience, and was then approved for a passage to Australia as a farm labourer. That man subsequently was placed on a farm in Western Australia, and, of course, he failed. I have no desire to reflect upon any government officials, but it has occurred to me that if migration agents in Great Britain receive £1 for each approved migrant - as I understand they do - it is possible they recommend persons who, in other circumstances, would have no chance of selection. The results of this system are seen in the subsequent failure of the migrants in this country.
– Even after a person has been recommended by an agent in England he has to pass the necessary examination.
– Yes, but evidently there is something wrong with the system, otherwise we should not have unqualified migrants being approved for land settlement in Australia.
– The only man who made a success of f arming in the Northern Territory was a runaway sailor.
– That exception proves the rule. Only one man in a thousand would make a success of farming in Australia unless he had previous experience.
– Many of our pioneers had no previous experience of land settlement.
– I have nothing to say against our pioneers. My point is that there is something wrong with the system that permits of a shipwright or mechanic employed in the heart of London - a man who has never been on a farm in his life - being recommended as a qualified immigrant for land settlement in Australia. Such men can know nothing whatever about farming. I admit that in Australia there are millions of acres that could be occupied profitably if we had the right class of immigrant, and I believe that before many years have elapsed we shall have a steady flow of British migrants. I hope that they will be of the right class. One honorable senator said this morning that by encouraging the best type of immigrant we should, in course of time, build up a strong and virile race, and that we should do all that is possible to encourage and strengthen a healthy Australian sentiment. We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that the great majority of the people of Australia have sprung from British stock.
– And do not let us forget it either.
– I do not forget it. Our purpose should be to keep Australia racially pure so that we shall be able to hold it against aggression in the future. Australia is God’s own country. Ifwe attract to it the right class of people, it will always be a desirable land to live in. We must not forget, however, that we owe a duty to those who are already here. They should have an equal chance. It is true that many Australians, and especially those who have been born in our capital cities, do not care for farm life. Nevertheless, there is keen competition by other Australian sons, lads born in our rural districts, for all blocks of land that are made available. Senator Needham yesterday cited instances of between 300 and 400 applicants for certain areas that were made available, and Senator McLachlan admitted that in some cases the successful applicant was as lucky as the winner of Tattersalls sweep. To ensure successful settlement and a fairly quick return, suitable lands adjacent to railways and other means of transport, and close enough to city markets, should be made available. If people have to take up areas in heavily timbered country, it will take them from eighteen months to two years to get their land cleared. In my State, as Senator Kingsmill mentioned this morning, settlers under the group system are paid a state rate of wages whilst engaged in clearing their blocks.. In this way they receive the necessary assistance to carry them over a difficult period. That system works satisfactorily. As the cost is added to their blocks, it has to be paid eventually by the settlers themselves. I agree with the main purpose of the bill. Senator Duncan this morning referred to the attitude of certain extremists on both sides of this chamber. I was pleased that Senator Duncan subscribes to the view that there are extremists in the ranks of Government supporters, because I was under the impression that, in the opinion of honorable senators opposite, the extremists were all on this side. I recall that when I entered this chamber an honorable senator opposite, upon being introduced to me, expressed surprise, I suppose, at my appearance, because he said, “Why, I thought you were an extremists and a bolshevik; I find that, after all, you are like any other man.” It is gratifying, therefore, to know that in Senator Duncan’s view honorable senators on this side of the chamber are not so extreme in their opinions as other people appear to think we are. A great many people run away with the idea that unless we populate this, country, theJapanese or the Chinese will swarm down in their millions and take possession of it. I am inclined to think, with Senator Duncan, that we need have no apprehension on that score. I. am satisfied that, whatever may be the political colour of the Government in power, it will always be prepared to take the necessary steps to defend Australia. Senator Duncan also had something to say about the brotherhood of man, and the attitude of a certain section of the Labour party towards migration. We have heard that before in this chamber. I should like to know what is wrong with the principle underlying the brotherhood of man if it is carried out in its entirety, as our Saviour intended it to be. If we had a real brotherhood of man, there would be little bitterness among the people of the world.
– Even brothers do not always agree.
– Senator Duncan referred to the fact that persons holding socialistic ideas may be brought to Australia under this agreement.
– That is not what I said. I was referring to extremists on the honorable senator’s side who hold those views.
– But for the united action of the workers in the years that have passed, we should not be as well off industrially as we are to-day. I hope that the workers will continue to unite in order that they may hold what they have gained. Senator Kingsmill referred to a pet hobby that he said he had ridden before in this chamber. I agree with the views that he expressed in regard to it. While he continues along those lines, he will be on the right track. I endorse his suggestion that some system should be evolved to bring to Australia fishermen from the northern parts of Scotland, or from some other countries, to engage in fishing operations in the seas that lap our shores. The fishing industry is to-day controlled by a ring, and although this is a land of plenty, it is not possible for the ordinary working man to have fish upon his table as frequently as he might. I should like to see the Government offer some inducement to fishermen in the Old World to come to Australia and engage in that industry. Right along the coast of Australia the seas are teeming with fish, and it should be retailed at a price that would enable any person to have a fish diet at least two or three times a week. Fish is cheaper in Kalgoorlie, after having been carried 400 miles from Perth, than it is in Melbourne.
– And better.
– That is so. The Government has expended money in a lavish fashion in granting bonuses and giving other forms of assistance to various industries. This industry has been absolutely neglected. I hope that a number of industries which are undergoing a period of idleness will, before long, be. working profitably for the benefit of the whole community.
.- The Minister should be gratified at the sympathetic reception that has been given to this measure by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber, not because of the inherent virtues of the bill, but on account of the great principle that underlies it. This is probably the most important measure with which we shall be called upon to deal during this or many future sessions. It touches a question that is vital, not only to our development, but also to our defence; and, in addition, it is based upon the principle that immigration should be removed from the realm of party politics. Whilst journeying through England last year I was grieved to see many persons making their weekly pilgrimage for the dole. We should endeavour, not only to relieve the Old Land of the incubus of unemployment, but also to restore to a certain section of our brothers and sisters overseas the selfrespect and moral fibre that the system of doles is breaking down. Senator Duncan stated that those people are not likely to prove attractive settlers. The sooner this problem is solved the more unlikely will be the possibility of its ever obtaining a fresh grip of men and women who belong to our race and breed. Their removal from their present surroundings, and from an atmosphere that is having such a damaging effect, will prove beneficial to them. It is unquestionably the duty and the prerogative of every unit of the Empire to assist in the settlement of this problem, which will overwhelm the people of Great Britain if it is not promptly removed. The favorable reception which this measure has had, is no doubt, due to the fact that it is. a bold and sincere, and probably the first real, attempt that has been made by any Australian Government to grapple with the problem of immigration. I am not quite sure that this is the best way to encourage migration or to make it successful. Senator Kingsmill voiced a similar apprehension in slightly different language. Settlement in Australia in the early stages was advanced, because those who handled the matter knew where every man and woman could be placed, and were familiar with the conditions that existed at each end. We require a clear understanding of what is visualized by the Government. The measure is, in the main, machinery in its character. It provides for the appointment of a board of commissioners, and proposes to make it a body corporate. It also fixes the tenure of the commissioners and the conditions governing their retirement. The essence of the measure is the provision that the commission must administer and give effect to the migration agreement signed on the 8th of April, 1925. The Government will be wise if it pays regard to various factors when making appointments to the commission. I understand that a gentleman of great eminence has been selected as chairman of the commission. I pay my tribute to his worth. He possesses exceptional qualifications mid considerable organizing ability. But in addition to organizing ability we shall, at this end at all events, require upon the commission a man who possesses a practical knowledge of the requirements of Australia and its powers of absorption. That knowledge is possessed only by men of long experience, who are familiar with the various branches of industry. I give the Government and the gentleman who is to be the chairman of the commission the credit of having in mind those considerations. The whole scope and ambit of the agreement relate to the settlement of migrants in our primary industries. Paragraph 1 provides that the Commonwealth Government shall endeavour to make arrangements .with the Governments of the States for suitable areas of land that are available for development and settlement, and for the carrying on of public works that will tend to promote the development of Australia, either directly or indirectly, and increase the opportunities for settlement. Those are the two main objects. The agreement then goes on to state -
To this end, the State Governments will be invited by the Commonwealth Government to submit’ to them full details of any undertakings proposed, such details to include the estimated total cost of each undertaking classified under appropriate headings, such as -
acquiring or resuming alienated land ;
clearing of land or preparing it for farm settlement;
construction of roads, bridges, &c. ;
construction and equipment of developmental railways, tramways, &c, directly conducive to new settlement (but not including main trunk railways) ;
construction of hydro-electric and water conservation or other similar works, in and for the purposes of rural areas;
construction of irrigation farms;
advances to settlers (including persons settling or in process of settlement on farms) for the purchase of stock, equipment, housing materials, &c. ;
advances to farmers or other rural employers for the. erection of cottages for employees;
construction of sugar mills, butter factories, and similar enterprises tending to assist in the development of rural areas;
settlement of persons upon farms;
any other undertaking or expenditure agreed upon.
Throughout the agreement, provision is made for only one form of settlement; and that is settlement the result of which will be the production of wheat, possibly wool, and other primary products. Afforestation and hydro-electric works are merely incidental. We must make sure that we have the land, and that it is available for settlement. There is an abundance of land that could be made ready for settlement. The existing position reminds me of the experience of an eminent chemist who considered that he had solved the problem of the destruction of the prickly pear in Queensland.
SenatorReid. - That has allegedly been solved on many occasions.
– It is quite possible of solution. After having been assured of the effectiveness of the chemist’s method for the destruction of the pear, a gentleman who had had experience in land settletment said : “ I want to know exactly what it is going to cost per acre to clear the land of prickly pear?” He informed him, and then my friend turned to another gentleman from Queensland, and asked him at what price adjacent land of equal quality, but free from prickly pear, could be obtained. It turned out that it would cost more to clear the ground of prickly “pear than it would to buy land free of prickly pear. That is the economic side of the question to which regard must be paid. There are places in South Australia and New South
Wales, and there are no doubt vast areas in Queensland and Western Australia, that will permit of greater settlement, but we shall have to see that they are prepared for the reception of settlers and that suitable settlers are brought out to place on them. These settlers should be men who will understand what they will have to face, and men who are equipped by nature and by training to discharge the duties that will appertain to that branch of settlement. It is a fundamental necessity that we must provide for the absorption of the settlers we bring from overseas. The agreement provides for an examination of the suitability of migrants before they are brought here to settle on the land, but we must pause for a moment, and consider the position of the primary industries of Australia. We have given bounties on beef, wine, butter and various other things. The two primary industries that stand out, and have stood right through without assistance, are woolgrowing and wheat-growing. With regard to wool the future prospects appear to be far better than those of any other industry. Australia is not likely to be faced by any serious competition from any other part of the world in regard to its wool; but can we say the same with regard toour wheat? Once Russia gets back to some stable form of government such as it enjoyed before the cataclysm from which it is suffering, and from which it is likely to suffer for some little time - once it gets back to wheat-production, what will be the position of our wheatgrowing areas in Australia? The price then obtained will be a great deal lower than the price now obtained, and I doubt very much whether wheat can be grown in Australia to give anything more than a basic wage to the grower at anything under 5s. a bushel. Already in Australia there are men engaged in primary industries who are not receiving what city men are receiving under the minimum awards of arbitration courts. Therefore we need to be wary in what we are doing in this regard. Although I do not see any provision in the bill ratifying, adopting, or authorizing the agreement, we shall probably learn from the Minister when he replies how that is done. When I examine the agreement, it seems to me that it fails in one or two respects to meet the requirements of Australia. Apparently all the efforts of the commission are to be directed to the immigration of menfolk. Although there is ample room in Australia for more domestics to help our womenfolk, there apparently is no provision to deal with that aspect of the question. The Minister may say that it is foreign to the subject-matter of the agreement, but I should like to know if we are to have two systems in operation at the same time - the system at present in vogue, if we are pleased to honour it by calling it a system, and the method controlled by the commission - or if all the duties in connexion with immigration are in future to be left to the commissioners. There is nothing before us to show that provision will be made for boy immigrants. Speaking, not as a party man, but as one who has watched this question abroad as well as in Australia, I can say that the scheme of bringing boys into Australia is the very best one that can be adopted. The boy who is brought here, goes to a home, and there is an individual interest taken in him. He grows up amongst his fellows in this country, learns their habits and their ways, becomes accustomed to his environment and ultimately goes out into the world equipped for the undertaking he is to follow. It is’ wise to catch your bird young and train it. It is far better to get a young immigrant and mould him to Australian conditions, than to bring out a man of mature years whom it takes a long time to train, and equip for the duties he is ultimately to undertake. Unfortunately, owing, possibly, to the exigencies of party politics, the South Australian Government stopped the flow of boy immigrants under the Barwell boy scheme; but, while that scheme was in operation, it was an admirable one. There are, no doubt, individual cases of failure, but we must look at the thing in the mass in order to see whether it is working well. I venture to say that the Barwell boy scheme, so far as it was in operation, proved an unqualified success. It is regrettable that a similar provision is not made in this bill. We heard something yesterday from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) about idle capital and idle men. I suggested at the time, by interjection, that there was no idle capital in Australia, although there might be some idle men; but I agree with the honorable senator that neither condition is economically sound. I suppose that the honorable senator had in mind the fact that some people are not developing their properties, holdings, or buildings as rapidly as they should. I shall tell him why they are not doing so. Their capital is not idle in the ordinary sense, lt is idle only in this sense, that they are not employing, it on those improvements to which the honorable senator referred, because no man with a true sense of economics would improve his property to-day when he knows that any improvement he may undertake will cost a good deal more than its true intrinsic value may be if the present period of inflation comes to an end. That is one of Australia’s troubles at the present time. Yesterday we had in this chamber an illustration of the very same thing. Honorable senators criticized the cost of houses at Canberra. Every one who buys one of those houses at the prices that are being charged for them has staring him in the face an economic loss when the day of deflation really comes. The man who has_ the control of money to-day is far-sighted enough to have regard for this fact, and, if there is any idle money in Australia, it is due entirely to that fact. In bringing out a large number of immigrants, we shall risk a considerable sum of money, an aspect with which I shall deal in a moment or two. When I was visiting the Old Land, I took the opportunity to make inquiries into migration methods, and to ascertain how Australia was viewed as a suitable country for emigrants. In. many places in England I found that little or nothing was known about Australia, and that men and women were afraid of the tremendous distance between this country and the Motherland. That was a general feeling prevailing in the rural districts of England. In Scotland even less was known about Australia, and I encountered one striking instance of how Australia missed quite a number of immigrants from that country. Through the editor of the Weekly Scotsman, I was fortunate enough to get in touch with Dr. Lawrie, who takes a tremendous interest in migration, and, through his introduction, I met others similarly interested in the north-west of Scotland. They had taken part in an emigration scheme from that part of the
British Isles, which had just passed through some very bad seasons. Although there had been thousands anxious to emigrate, they did not wish to go to Australia, and the efforts of the immigration agents and those people who, very humanely, formed themselves into committees to give the emigrants every assistance, had been directed towards sending them to Canada. Altogether 15,000 were sent to Canada, and some of the men who were instrumental in sending them there were almost demented afterwards when they learned of the conditions that had to be faced there. Rigorous as may be the climate in the west of Scotland, it is nothing compared to that of Canada, and, as it was put to me, the men who had been sent to Canada were “dying like flies.” If there is one class of man suitable for attending sheep, it is the western Highlander. He knows nothing whatever about agriculture. Where he lives there is no land fit for cultivation beyond a few small plots here and there. But he understands sheep; and if there is one class of immigrant that ought to be sent to Australia, particularly for the development of the pastoral areas like the Barkly Tablelands, it is the man from the north-western Highlands of Scotland who is now emigrating to Canada. I have given an illustration of the confusion which arose when sufficient attention was not given to the conditions under which migrants were expected to work.
– We lost the services of good men.’
– Yes, and whether flock-masters or shepherds, the men of whom I speak make fine citizens, and do their work well. T am particularly concerned with the fact that there seems to be no provision for parliamentary control over the money to be expended under this scheme. So far as I can gather from clause 5 of the agreement, the financial responsibility incurred will be the liability of the Commonwealth. We are certainly incurring a grave risk in handing over to commissioners, however highly qualified they may be, the control of such a large sum of money. The liability of the British Government, so far as I can gather from the Minister’s speech and the agreement, is £130,000 for every principal sum of £750,000, which liability under the agreement is limited to a total of £7,083,000. A sum of £34,000,000 is to be invested in this scheme of bringing migrants to Australia, and in handling them by a rule of thumb method of government organization. It is a new system, and one to which the British Government, in its desire that we should take our share in some of the problems of the Empire, readily subscribed. In one sense, I support the Government’s proposals; but I wish Parliament to have control, so that if the occasion should arise a halt may be called. If the productive capacity of the new settlers is not sufficient to maintain them, the Government may be placed in the position it has been placed in connexion with soldier settlers, and may be faced with the responsibility of lend-‘ ing a further helping .hand. . No doubt the Minister will say that that is a problem which the commission will have to consider; but we have a duty to perform in the interests of the taxpayers. I am whole-heartedly in favour of bringing migrants to Australia and of keeping our people within the Empire, but I would be recreant to my trust if I failed to direct attention to the fact, that the bill proposes to hand over extensive’ power to a commission which we cannot control, and this may be subversive of the best .interests of the country. The Government is to be commended for its courage in launching such a big undertaking, but in admiring its .activities in this direction we should not assist in incurring heavy expenditure that may not be recoverable. If the undertaking should prove a failure the tide of migration’ will undoubtedly be against Australia for many years. I should have preferred a smaller scheme providing for a steady inflow of desirable migrants. I have no doubt that large numbers can be profitably absorbed if provision has been made for them, and the commission will no doubt be expected to undertake an extensive developmental policy as outlined, under which land will be made available to our kinsfolk from overseas. I do not think there is any justification for the fears expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) concerning the arrival of foreign migrants, particularly from southern Europe. That subject need not be discussed at this juncture, as I believe the necessary action is being taken to prevent an undue number of foreign migrants coining to Australia. There are, however, other phases of foreign migration, particularly in relation to conduct which provides ample scope for future discussion. I intend to support the bill subject to an assurance from the Minister that some control will be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament. The liabilities of the Government will, I expect, be fully explained by the Minister.
Debate (on motion by Senator Chapman) adjourned.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn. 1 ask honorable senators to come prepared to complete the debate on the Development and Migration Bill next week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 2.53 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 July 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1926/19260709_senate_10_114/>.