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The Labor Party And White Australia

Part Three:

Labor's Federal Leaders From Watson To Hughes 1901-1916

Kevin McCauley

Sydney: August 2002


1. John Watson
2. Andrew Fisher
3. William Morris Hughes


This is the third part of the series on the Labor Party and White Australia.

This pamphlet appeared shortly after a current Secretary of the Australian Council of Trades Unions (Mr. Greg Combet) used the Internet publication 'Workers On-Line' to call the White Australia Policy a "genocide".

In this view, the great leaders of the Labour cause were no better than Rwandan murderers who carried out a genuine genocide in 1992. Let alone Pol Pot's efforts which saw two million Cambodians massacred.

This rewriting of history is a perversion of the truth to justify the liberal-globalist politics that control the modern Labor Party and labour movement.

Therefore this pamphlet should show the reader the true facts, that it was the Labour party and movement that were at the forefront of fighting for a White Australia. What did the policy achieve? One: it gave Australia the highest standard of living in the world in the early 1900's. Two: it abolished slavery in Queensland by humanely repatriating the oppressed Kanakas who were ruthlessly taken from their homes by the evil slave traders and forced to work in the most appalling conditions. Three: it confirmed our identity. Four: in a pamphlet yet to be issued in this series, I will show how White Australia sentiment defeated conscription in World War One and saved many Australian lives.

If all this is equals genocide, the dictionary requires a new update. The misuse of this word by Mr. Corbet is not only a vile, contemptible attack on those patriotic Australians, but it also cheapens and demeans the victims of real genocide who have lost their lives.

By restating the truth and not allowing the perverters and re-writers of history to, in Stalin-like fashion, falsify the past, we can pass on to the current generation the true facts of our heritage.

Kevin McCauley

1. John Watson

John Christian Watson was the first leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labour Party and became the first Labour Prime Minister of Australia. John Watson was born Valparaiso, Chile, on the 9th of April 1867. The family moved to New Zealand and settled in the South Island in a small town called, Cave Valley. At the age of nineteen, Watson arrived in Sydney.

A printer by trade, he joined the Typographical Union. Watson rose rapidly through the union and was chosen to represent it on the Trades and Labour Council. At the age of twenty-three, Watson was elected President of the Sydney Trades and Labour Council. In 1894, Watson stood for, and was elected, for the seat of Young in New South Wales. During the 1890's, Watson was Chairman of the Anti-Chinese League

Watson was a firm believer in Federation and stood for, and won, the seat of Bland in the Federal Election of 1901 and subsequently for South Sydney in 1906. Watson, on a resolution, proposed by Josiah Thomas, was chosen as the first leader of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Labour Party. Watson was only thirty-four.

The first years of Federation saw the establishment of three political parties in the Parliament: the Labour Party, the Protectionist Party and the reactionary Free Trade Party. Watson was the ideal leader for Labour at this time, for he was a skilled negotiator and as Labour sat on the cross-benches, it provided flexible support to the Protectionist Party in return for concessions to Labour policy.

Watson was a great admirer of Alfred Deakin. On April 23rd 1904, Watson was invited to form the first national Labour government in the world. However, without a majority in either House, Watson's government found it difficult to be really effective. Watson resigned as Prime Minister on August 17th when Labour lost an amendment in the Federal parliament. The leader of the Free Trade Party, George Reid, became Prime Minister. Watson immediately re-opened negotiations with Alfred Deakin's Protectionist Party on the possibility of a formal alliance, but elements in that party got cold feet and his plan came to nothing.

Watson encouraged Deakin to move against Reid and assured him of Labour support in the Parliament. In July 1905, Deakin became Prime Minister with Labour support. Watson remained as Labour leader until October 1907 when he resigned due to ill-health. He remained in Parliament until 1910.

In 1916, during the Conscription campaign, Watson sided with the conscriptionists and was expelled from the Labour Party; however, his expulsion left none of the bitterness that was directed towards Hughes. Watson took no further interest in politics after his expulsion. But Labour retained a soft-spot for its first Prime Minister.

On Watson's death in 1941, John Curtin interrupted a caucus meeting and paid him deep respect.

“While it may be said that the feeling in this Chamber, even in this parliament, is so decided upon this matter that debate is unnecessary, yet it must be recognised that the step we are taking, although it is one upon which the people are unanimous, is in itself so important and so likely to lead at least to diplomatic negotiations with the older land, that it is due to the statesmen of the old country at least, that our reasons should be stated clearly, and that none of them should be overlooked in regard to the decision which we hope this parliament will arrive at. In view of that, I feel it is not necessary to apologise for supplementing, to some extent, the reasons put forward by the acting leader of the Opposition. As far as I am concerned, the objection I have to the mixing of these coloured people with the white people of Australia - although I admit it is to a large extent tinged with considerations of an industrial nature - lies in the main in the possibility and probability of racial contamination. I think we should gauge this matter, not alone by the abstract possibilities of the case, but by those considerations which appeal to our ordinary human weaknesses and prejudices. The question is whether we would desire that our sisters or our brothers should be married into any of these races to which object. If these people are not such as we can meet upon an equality, and not such as we can feel that it is no disgrace to intermarry with, and not such as we can expect to give us an infusion of blood that will tend to the raising of our standard of life, and to the improvement of the race, we should be foolish in the extreme if we did not exhaust every means of preventing them from coming to this land, which we have made our own. The racial aspect of the question, in my opinion, is the larger and more important one, but the industrial aspect also has to be considered….

There is a good deal in the contention put forward by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports in regard to the conversion of a number of people on the question of coloured immigration, because of the ramifications of the coloured races having extended of late to a much greater degree than was the case just a short time ago. We know that a few years ago businessmen - speaking by and large - looked upon the Chinese or other coloured undesirables as men who could be very well tolerated, because they took the place of labourers, of men who might be unreliable, or not quite so cheap, but when it was found out these Orientals possessed all the cunning and acumen necessary to fit them for conducting business affairs, and that their cheapness of living was carried into business matters as well as into ordinary labouring work, a marked alteration of opinion took place among businessmen, as far as the competition of the 'heathen Chinee' was concerned. At the present time in Sydney, we have whole streets which are practically given up to the businesses conducted by Chinese, Syrians, and other coloured aliens, and one cannot go today into more than five towns of any importance in the country districts of New South Wales without finding two, three, or perhaps half a dozen coloured store-keepers apparently doing a thriving business. In each and every avenue of life we find that the competition of the coloured races in insidiously creeping in, and if we are to maintain the standard of living we think necessary, in order that our people may be brought up with a degree of comfort, and with scholastic advantages which will conduce to the improvement and general advancement of the nation, some pause must be made in regard to the extension of the competition of the coloured aliens generally. Another aspect of the question is that in the northern parts of Australia, both on the east and on the west coast, we find that coloured people have gained more than a footing - they have practically secured control. In the northern parts of Western Australia the pearl fisheries are being run with coloured divers, and large numbers of these men - Malays, and other coloured aliens - are still being imported under contract to work as divers upon the pearl shelling grounds. I do not say that these men are allowed to overrun the State, but they have established themselves on the coast from which they work the fisheries…..”

Immigration Restriction Bill, Parliamentary Debates, 1901-1902, Vol. 4, First Parliament, First Session, pp. 4633 - 4634.

“We can stop them also from landing and making the shore a base of operations and the probability is that if they had no base from which to work, our white people could compete successfully against these coloured aliens. It is because these men can use the Australian shore as a base that they are able to work the pearl shelling beyond even the three-mile limit.

It would, at all events, prevent them from having a base in sufficient proximity to enable them to carry on the industry. Then on the Queensland coast, we find the Thursday Island is today a coloured settlement containing the most heterogeneous mixture of races it possible to conceive. We find too that the Japanese, Javanese, and various other coloured peoples, have been coming to the mainland of north Queensland in such numbers as would, I think, be most alarming to the minds of the people if they thoroughly understood how far this immigration is proceeding. The honourable member for Kennedy reminds me that since the affirmation by the Queensland government of the treaty which was arrived at between the British and Japanese governments, the number of Japanese in Queensland has increased within eighteen months or two years by over three thousand. These figures represent the immigration from one nation only, and do not include the Javanese, Malays, Manila-men, and the hundred and one different kinds of coloured men who go to make up the peculiar collection of races to be found in northern Queensland. Again, in the interior districts of the various States, we find Afghans and Hindoos employed, some as camel-drivers, and some as hawkers, and in each instance becoming a menace to the people in the sparsely populated districts. I do not suppose there is one man who has not read or experienced the trouble that these coloured hawkers give, especially where women or children are left - and necessarily left - unprotected, in the sparsely settled districts. It is common knowledge that these men are not only insolent, but actually threatening in their attitude towards women and children unless trade is done with them. This menace has been brought under the notice of the police and in some instances action has been successfully taken against these hawkers. All these things go to show the danger that confronts us, and the necessity for some definite action being taken. It is said by some of those who object to legislation of this sort that, while we may be justified in keeping our Chinamen, Japanese, Manila-men, Malays, or Assyrians, we have no justification for attempting to keep out of Australia the coloured British subjects of His Majesty, the King. I would direct the attention of people who think in that way to the fact that the British government today admit the power of this Commonwealth and of the people of Australia to differentiate between Indian British subjects and white British subjects, because they themselves differentiate between them. The British government do not think of putting the Hindoo or any other native of India upon the same plane as the people of the United Kingdom……”

Immigration Restriction Bill, Parliamentary Debates, 1901-1902, Vol. 4, First Parliament, First Session, p. 4634.

“I am convinced that in New South Wales - as to Tasmania, I do not know - that the Natal Act has not been efficient, and I am convinced further that the Bill proposed by the government if passed in its present shape, will not achieve its object. That is the whole objection I have to the Bill. I quite sympathise with the object of the measure, but I content that under its provisions it will be possible for a man to pass the examination and still be one of the most objectionable immigrants imaginable. We know that education does not eliminate the objectionable qualities of the baboo Hindoo…..

With the Oriental, as a rule, the more he is educated, the worse man he is likely to be from our point of view. The more educated the more cunning he becomes, and the more able, with his peculiar ideas of social and business morality, to cope with the people here. I do think there is any advantage in restricting the admission of coloured people to those who are educated, and, in any case, I contend that the number which will filter through under the government's proposal will still be sufficiently large to constitute a great menace to the well-being of the people. Then, it is undesirable, to say the least of it, that we should attempt to place any bar in the way of white people, as is proposed by the Bill. We know that many uneducated white people are proved later to be valuable colonists. I am not now speaking of one particular race as against another, but we can at least say that, Great Britain has benefited to a very large degree in the past by the steady invasion by a portion of the more northerly European races, which has been going on for many centuries. That invasion has helped to build up a national character which is unique and which certainly is in no way inferior to that of any other European nation. With this experience behind us, it would be an error to pass any legislation which would place a bar in the way of immigration from other European nations, so long as that immigration does not get beyond reasonable bounds - so long as immense hordes do not come over….

While it continues merely in driblets of people of an enterprising character who wish to make a better living for themselves then there is a chance of their doing in their own countries it would be a mistake to interpose a barrier. We have room for every man who has a standard of living equal to our own, and whose general tone is in no way inferior to that of our own people. We have room for all such in Australia, and I for one would be slow indeed to put a bar in the way of their coming here, unless, of course, it is shown we cannot achieve our objective in any other way. But I contend that it is possible to achieve our object in another way. I believe that we can get past the provision of which I have given notice, and here I would like to say that I do not intend to press the latter part of the amendment, which has reference to Pacific Islanders, the government having given notice of their intention to deal with this in another Bill. My proposal is to insert a sub-clause 'a' in Clause Four, prohibiting the immigration of any person who is an aboriginal native of Asia or Africa and I believe that the Colonial Office will not be likely to reject a Bill containing such a provision. If the Colonial Office authorities are likely to reject such a Bill once, I do not think they are likely to reject it a second time. If, however, as some honourable members contend, the Bill is rejected a second time, then, as I said yesterday, the sooner we understand what our powers are, and how far this autonomous government with which we are supposed to have been endowed is a reality or how far it is a mockery, the better it will be for all.

Immigration Restriction Bill, Parliamentary Debates, 1901-1902, Vol. 4, First Parliament, First Session, p. 4636.

“I quite understand the attitude of the honourable and learned Member for Parkes, because he comes at the Bill from an utterly different standpoint from that of a large majority of this committee. Judging from his speech the other evening upon the main point at issue he was prepared to allow into Australia any citizen of the world, coloured or white, so long as he was able to pass the education test. But that attitude is not sympathised with by the majority of this committee, in fact the honourable and learned member is in a minority of one.

Just so, even the honourable member for Melbourne is not with the honourable and learned Member for Parkes, as to the admission of blacks, and he is, therefore, in a minority of one. From the point of view of the honourable and learned member, I can quite understand the desirability of making this test of the character he suggests, but so far as subterfuge and equivocation are concerned, of which he speaks, he deliberately with the assistance of his vote, committed himself to that course. A number of us thought that we should take the straight out course of declaring the desire, intention, and fixed determination of Australia on this point, but we were in a minority, owing to a set of circumstances it is not necessary to go into again. Those who went to make up the majority on that occasion are not at one in the intention or method of the honourable and learned Member for Parkes desires, and so so those members, and the majority of the committee as a whole, being desirous of making this measure as effective as it will in its essence allow, favour the course proposed under present circumstances by the government. That course is that, although the government have not seen fit to take the straight method - the straight method in our opinion, anyhow - those of us who desire to see coloured people kept out must have a weapon in the hands of the government of the day that will allow them to bar any person who may have qualified in one particular language but who nevertheless, is a most undesirable immigrant. If we make the alteration suggested by the honourable and learned Member for Parkes, it will be quite possible that the millions of coloured people about whom he spoke the other evening as being well educated and therefore able to pass a test in some European language, may gain entry. ''

Immigration Restriction Bill, Parliamentary Debates, 1901-1902, Vol. 4, First Parliament, First Session, p. 5571.

“In 1897 we were assured that the Natal Act would be effective, and as one who voted at that period for a more complete measure, I was prepared to give it a little trial in view of all the difficulties, and especially in view of the fact that at that time, there was a probability of Federation being consummated within a short period, and of our being able - according to the statements of the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister and other advocates of the Bill - to speak to the British government in such a manner to ensure what we desired. I was prepared then to let things go for a short time, but that is no reason why we should continue in that course for all time. With all respect to the Attorney-General, and having regard to the possibility of going further, I want to know how long we are to wait? We have already experimented for four years in the various States, and now it is proposed we shall make another experiment for another few years before a further Bill is demanded. Whilst with proper administration, this Bill might be made effective, I am afraid it will be extremely difficult to ensure that, on all occasions. I do not wish too imply that the Custom House officers or those charged with the detailed administration of the Bill are by no means dishonest persons, but I do say that occasionally it is found that some of them are dishonest, and where large interests are involved, or where people have a pecuniary interest in securing the admission of undesirable people, there is always a danger that the officer will not be so careful to put the test in the complete way that the Minister may desire. No such escape would be possible to the officer if the colour line were drawn, and I think the only clear and definite way of attaining our end is to declare that coloured aliens are unfit to mix with us, and that they shall be excluded. There are other provisions in this measure which to my mind mistake it of some value, and for that reason I do not propose to vote against the third reading. There is even a hope that another branch of the legislature may see that it is desirable to conform to the wish of what undoubtedly, in my mind, is a majority in this House, and a majority of the people of Australia. I do not think that in his Maitland speech the Prime Minister made any mention of the educational test, but a distinct promise was made to the people of Australia that the government would work for a 'White Australia'. I do not remember the exact phraseology of the statement, but I remember that the impression borne in upon me was that the government were going to exclude Asiatics and other undesirable persons, and as far as people could glean from that speech, there was no other interpretation to be placed upon the intentions of the government than that they proposed to absolutely exclude coloured aliens. If Ministers led the people to believe that they were going to take steps to absolutely exclude these aliens from Australia, how is it that without making a fight and without firing a gun, they have, on the first invitation surrendered to the British government?

Immigration Restriction Bill, Parliamentary Debates, 1901-1902, Vol. 4, First Parliament, First Session, p. 5826.

“The feeling that I entertain upon this question is even if it means the absolute annihilation of the sugar industry, I am prepared to vote for the abolition of the kanaka. In my appeal to the electors of my constituency I expressed that opinion in no uncertain terms. But I am convinced that there is no likelihood of the annihilation of the industry because of the action proposed to be taken. So far as the general question is concerned, I think that the people declared very distinctly upon it on that occasion. With regard to the statements put forward, this evening by the honourable member for Melbourne, and advanced a few days ago by the Premier of the State of Queensland.

The statements made by those two gentlemen were to the effect that if the people of the Queensland had known of the treatment likely to be metered to them in this respect, they would not have joined the Federation. I desire to say that the man who being a resident of Queensland and knowing the feeling of the southern States - which had been for years past against coloured labour - was not aware at the time of the Federal Elections that all the probabilities almost the certainties, were in favour of the abolition of kanaka labour, must have been politically and commercially, very simple indeed. It seems to me that those of the sugar planters of Queensland who voted for Federation were quite alive to the probability of the kanaka traffic being stopped, but they thought that the opening up of the large markets of the south would be worth more to them than the retention of the kanaka. I do not say that their votes alone were sufficient to carry the Constitution Bill, because we find that there are only some 2,600 white men engaged in growing sugar cane. Their votes would be an exceedingly large factor in the determination of the matter, but so far as they did cast a vote for Federation, it seems to me that they had their eyes fully open to what was likely to occur. They reckoned on getting a market for their sugar, with Protection against the whole world and on being placed on a better position commercially than they were before. Now, having got the market secure, with the probability of some protection against imported sugar, they desire to keep both the market and the black labour. I have always shown a leaning towards the Protectionist side of the fiscal question, but if the planters do not get rid of black labour, they will get no protection from me. I have no ambition to pay more for the sugar that I consume, or to force others to do so, in order to keep in employment a number of degraded individuals such as these kanakas. These gentlemen in the north are rather overreaching themselves in the demands they are putting before the country at the present time.”

Mr. Isaacs: “Protection is to maintain the standard of white labour.”

“Precisely. That is the only justification from my point of view for the contention of the Protectionist. It does not seem that we can get these gentlemen to view the matter from anything like a reasonable standpoint. Another aspect of this question is its industrial bearing. While I believe that the white man is not likely to be employed under present conditions in the general field work of sugar growing - although I understand that a large proportion of Queensland is grown by white labour and white labour only - I would point out that it is useless to refer to the scarcity of white labour while the rates of pay now being offered, obtain…..

The whole question is one of wages and general conditions, and if white men are offered fairly good wages, and have a reasonable prospect of steady employment, there is no doubt that in the greater proportion of Queensland they will be found to do the work reliably and well. White men will go wherever they can get good pay and perform their tasks in all extremes of heat and cold from one Pole to the other, much more efficiently than any black men. It is stated that, unless we are prepared to allow the kanakas to be employed in Queensland or in the Northern Territory generally a large proportion of our resources there will remain underdeveloped. We have to consider not only the probability of the contamination of our race, but what work of development can be carried on by means of kanaka labour in the Northern Territory, that is to say, how many of our own people will find profitable employment. I do not desire to see a development which means only the encouragement or the bringing into existence of a large number of Legrees, who take advantage of the slave labour which is, practically, at their command, but I would rather see a development there under conditions which will permit of our own people living in comfort, and allow them to bring up their children in the proper way…..

They are bound to do that, for wherever there is an opportunity of getting coloured labour cheaply, a variety of excuses is always available to those desiring to employ it. In New South Wales, the planters are just as ready as are those in other sections of the Commonwealth to take advantage of an excuse of that character. I do not thin it is necessary to say much more on this matter. I have only taken that general interest in the question which the citizens of Australia, outside of Queensland, have so far exhibited. There are I am glad to say, in this House a number of honourable members who are more closely associated with the industry, who, at any rate, because if its proximity to themselves, have had a better opportunity of giving it a detailed study than have most honourable members. Therefore, we may expect from them a greater attention to details, and a close acquaintance with, the whole bearings of the subject than has been exhibited by the honourable member for Melbourne. As far I am concerned, whatever the position of Queensland itself might be, I would still argue for the abolition of the kanaka traffic in that State. Those of us who hold that opinion are at least confirmed in our general intentions by the verdict of Queensland itself. Not only so, but in view of all the circumstances that were likely to arise, and in view of the almost certainty that the southern States would declare for a White Australia, Queensland entered the Federation. Also, in the election which has since taken place, that State declared by an overwhelming majority in favour of a White Australia….

I understood the honourable member to say that he was not returned as a supporter of the kanaka in the sugar industry. If I was mistaken, I apologise. In any case, the important fact to be borne in mind is that a majority of the members returned to represent the State of Queensland in both Houses - not only a majority in sectional districts, but a majority for the whole of Queensland polled as one constituency - has declared in favour of the abolition of kanaka labour. Every man in the Senate representing that State is opposed to black labour, whether it be in the form of kanakas, or other coloured persons. In this Chamber I do not know that there are more than two honourable members who were returned in favour of black labour.”

Immigration Restriction Bill, Parliamentary Debates, 1901-1902, Vol. 4, First Parliament, First Session, p. 5852.

2. Andrew Fisher

Andrew Fisher was the second Federal Labour leader and in 1908, became the second Labour Prime Minister. He was born on August 29th 1862 in Scotland and went to work in the coalmines at the age of twelve. In those days, coalmining was both dangerous and unhealthy, with many miners suffering from phthisis which was known in those days as 'miners' complaint'. At the age of seventeen, Fisher became a union official; in 1885, when Fisher was twenty-three, he decided to migrate to Australia.

Fisher settled in the Gympie district of Queensland and secured employment in goldmining. He soon became an executive member of the Miners' Federation. He stood for, and was elected, to the state seat of Gympie in 1893. He was defeated in the next election but was returned in the 1899 election. According to Jack Lang, it was Fisher and Andrew Dawson (Queensland's first Labour Premier) who led the fight in Queensland against Kanaka labour. Andrew Fisher stood for, and was elected to the seat of Wide Bay, in the first Federal Parliament in 1901. When Watson formed the first Labour government in 1904, Fisher was made Minister of Trade and Customs. In 1905, he was elected as deputy leader to Watson, and on Watson's retirement, Federal leader. He became Prime Minister in November 1908 until 1909. The Labour Party swept the polls the following year and controlled both the Senate and the House of Representatives. With control of the Senate, the dynamic programme of the Fisher government started. The achievements of the period included the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank, the note issue, invalid pensions, maternity allowance, Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta railway, the establishment of the Military Academy at Duntroon and the establishment of the National Capital were among one hundred items of legislation passed. Fisher was one of the greatest Prime Ministers this nation has produced and while his quote of "standing by Britain to the last man and last shilling" are remembered, it is largely forgotten that he also said in 1911 at Ballarat just before leaving for an Imperial Conference in London that: "he would not hesitate to haul down the Union Jack if Australian interests demanded it."

Then came the challenge of the constitutional powers to give real effect to Labour policy. Greater power was necessary with trusts and combines, monopolies, corporation and industrial powers. However, the electorate was not up to the task of continuing the great nation building programme of the Fisher Labour government and Labour was defeated in the 1913 election by one seat in the House of Representatives, but Labour still controlled the Senate. The Cook Liberal government lasted for fifteen months; Cook, unable to govern with effect due to Labour control of the Senate, and loosing popular support, called a 'double dissolution of the both houses of parliament'. The result was that Labour under Andrew Fisher was returned to office with a large majority. Up to 1915, the Labour government was united. However, this did not last. W.M. Hughes was becoming tired of waiting for his turn as Prime Minister. Tensions came to the surface. Relations with Hughes deteriorated. It was apparent that the strain of office was starting to tell on Fisher. Relations with Hughes broke down to the extent that Fisher asked Hughes whether he would accept the position of High Commissioner in London. Hughes replied that he had no intention of acceptance. Fisher then said: "then I will". Fisher then immediately informed his Cabinet and party. The convenient excuse was tiredness and ill-health.

In the London office of High Commissioner, it was found that Andrew Fisher was not particularly comfortable. He came under the instruction of Prime Minister Hughes. He annoyed Hughes by not publicly supporting conscription but stayed silent on the issue. Fisher also found it difficult to attend functions; he made no pretence of being an after-dinner speaker. On his return to Australia after resigning as High Commissioner, Fisher told his Labour members of the true facts of his resignation as Labour leader.

Andrew Fisher lived quietly in retirement in London until his death on October 22nd 1928 at the age of sixty-six.

“Before we go to a division I should like to say a word or two in reply to the honourable member for North Sydney, in as much as he has repeated a statement made by the Premier by way of interjection. When the Prime Minister stated that there is no public man who has declared emphatically on the hustings for a White Australia without reservation. “

Mr. Barton: I never said that. What I said was that at the time I made my declaration in favour of a White Australia, the only measures that had ever been introduced for the restriction of coloured immigration, apart from that of the Chinese, and had been assented to, were measures such as this and I had heard no proposals from public men to achieve that object by any other means.

“That is a fuller explanation of the views held by the Prime Minister. I feel reasonably assured that there are dozens of honourable members who emphatically declared to the electors that the one principle they thought vital to Australian interests was a White Australia. I should like to know the method by which we can arrive at a White Australia without directly excluding Asiatics. If the only possible way of attaining that object is by such provisions as are contained in this Bill, it was the duty of the Prime Minister to say emphatically to the Australian people that this was the kind of legislation the government believed in. I know that it is not always necessary or wise for a Minister going to the country to state in detail what he proposes to do, but this is a question of such vital importance, which cannot be put to one side or equivocated upon, that it was the duty of the leading men on either side to make the matter clear and definite to the electors. If there was a misunderstanding amongst Members who have been elected to the House, how is it possible for the electors of Australia to understand what the Prime Minister then meant? So far as I am concerned, I have no doubt at all. I asked for the vote of my constituents, without absolute freedom to exclude by legislation all Asiatics from the Commonwealth. “

Mr. Watson: That was the inference from the Prime Minister's speech at Maitland and that is what he is not doing.

Mr. Barton: I am doing it.

Mr. Watson: No.

Mr. Barton: I say yes.

“I leave this point because I do not wish to address myself to side issues…….

If I thought there was to be a contest between this Parliament and the offices of His Majesty's Government in Great Britain over this question, I should say that the sooner that the contest took place, the better. It is wrong for a responsible Minister to stand up in our national Parliament and endeavour to create the impression among the Australian people that we are not a self-governing community at all, that we are not competent to carry on our own legislation unless with the consent of His Majesty's Ministers, sitting in a country which is perfectly safe from undesirable immigration of this kind. I recognise the great and valuable services which have been rendered by individual members of the government to the cause of a White Australia. I should like to have supported them upon this measure because they have the same object in view as myself. But the one disturbing element in my mind regarding there position upon this occasion is the broad hint which they threw out that we are not free to deal with this question…..”

Mr. Isaacs: It is an effort to strengthen our endeavours to keep Australia white.

Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates, September 27 1901, pp. 5344 - 5345.

“I should be inclined to put in the whole of the figures showing the production of sugar in Queensland from the beginning right up to the present day. Perhaps, however, it would be unwise to do that. I shall take the liberty of replying to the remarks of the honourable member for Oxley in regard to those who violated the pledges they made to the people in 1888. Sir Samuel Griffith and Sir Thomas McIllwraith coalesced, and behind the backs of the people and without their authority, and against petitions and the resolutions of public meetings, demoralised the Queensland parliament, and passed a law abolishing what had previously been done according to the express wishes of the electors. How did this coalition take place? Sir Thomas McIllwraith, in the statement just now read, that he was never in favour of doing away with the Kanakas, and he was too strong and bold a man to surrender his principles. In 1888, however, the year of the general election in Queensland, he found the position so strong against him, and the electors so determined that there should be no further recruiting of Kanaka labour, that he was compelled to issue a manifesto in which he said that although he could not abandon his principles, he would promise that he would not countenance the introduction of any further Kanaka labour. What happened? He returned to power under this sacred pledge. He quarrelled with his colleagues, and coalesced with Sir Samuel Griffith, who had also pledged himself to the electors to oppose the introduction of coloured labour. I had the pleasure of hearing Sir Samuel Griffith in 1888 deliver a speech to the electors of Queensland, and I well remember that, when speaking on the black labour question, he warned the electors of Queensland that the question was not settled. He stated that the matter was not at an end, not withstanding that he was then in favour of putting it aside, and of not introducing any more Kanaka labour. He knew what the position was, and he told the people so, but in later years, after again becoming Premier in coalition with Sir Thmas McIllwraith, through circumstances over which he hardly had control, he was almost compelled to repeal the Act he had passed in 1885. What can be said of a government that acted contrary to its pledges to the people, and reversed the distinct verdict of the electors? What would the people of Australia say if this government did anything of the kind and would they be entitled to say of honourable members who took action that was capable of that construction? They would regard them with scorn. We Labour members asked the government of Queensland to conduct themselves as honourable men, and to go to the electors upon the question, but they did not do so. I would ask honourable members who have read the history of this movement, what were the causes of the great depression that has been so much spoken of? What were the causes of the small financial institutions being in trouble at that time? Many of the larger financial institutions were also in trouble, but the Labour Party could not be blamed for that. Is there an honourable member who would argue that, because the financial institutions were in difficulties, as they were throughout Australia, as in other parts of the world, we should submit to having undesirable labour thrust upon us in opposition to the verdict of the electors. That was the position when the coalition government in 1892 reversed the policy of Queensland. It was during that session of that parliament, which was the last to be elected for a term of five years, that the Queensland government reversed everything that had been done, presumably from a democratic point of view. They passed an electoral law which destroyed a third of the working men's votes. At the general election in 1893, the electors of Queensland returned fifteen brand new Labour members to the Queensland parliament, although one third of the working men's votes had been destroyed in order to secure the return of a conservative majority. Speaking from memory, the votes that were cast for the Labour Party numbered 27,000 as against 29,000 cast for the whole of the ministerialists. In spite of the fact that we as a party polled nearly as large a number of votes as all the ministerialists put together, some people told us that the electors of Queensland had been converted, but the electors had never been converted into believing in black labour of any kind. Nor do a majority of the electors of Queensland believe in the employment of Kanaka labour.

Pacific Islanders Labourers' Bill, Commonwealth Parlia-mentary Debates, 6 November 1901, p. 6907.

“Why was it that when the Federal elections were announced the Brisbane newspapers, which have been so highly spoken of, should have been so confident of success, in consequence of the result of the State elections, that they issued a challenge to the Labour Party, pointing out that the question before Queensland was, 'are we to have the coloured labour necessary to develop our northern land?'. If there be any blame for this throwing down of the gauntlet to the Labour Party that blame must be attached to the Brisbane Courier. The challenge was not left a day unanswered. The immediate and everlasting reply of the Labour Party to questions of that kind has been, and, I hope, always will be, that so far as we are concerned, we do not think Kanakas are profitable in Queensland or necessary for any industry, and that, even if they were necessary, there are evils inseparable from their being recruited and their remaining in the country, which more than counterbalance any benefit gained from their presence. For that reason the Labour Party are entirely against the traffic, and we take up the position at our own risk. We are told that two thirds of the electors are against us. If that be so, what a stupid lot of politicians we must have been when, seeking our own aggrandizement, as we have been told by the press, we asked the electors to give us power to exclude Kanakas whenever we thought fit as members of the Federal parliament. Not a Labour candidate, either for the House of Representatives or for the Senate, asked for any terms at all. I always said that we were prepared to be generous and liberal, and we have been generous and liberal. Had we been revengeful or had we felt any feelings of resentment against those who fought us so hardly, we should have agreed to the proposal of the honourable member for Parramatta for the immediate abolition of the traffic, but we did not do so. We intimated that we did not wish to deal with this question in any other but a fair way. I will say for the government that, taking this Bill in conjunction with their fiscal proposals, they have dealt with the question in a statesman-like way. One of the points which was made during the elections by the distinguished and enlightened press we have heard so much about, was put forward in graphic language by a defeated candidate for the Senate, namely, the honourable A.J. Thynne, a very able man. That gentleman after the Labour candidates for the Senate had been announced, said that when he saw the character of the men who had been nominated to represent Queensland, he thought it his duty is bounden duty to come forward and give the electors an opportunity to send a fit man to the Federal parliament. The defeat of that gentleman has not to me so much significance as his words. They are a proof of what I have seen indicated in Queensland for a long time. There is growing up in that State, as in every State and country where servile labour is employed, a feeling that the well-to-do and the professional people are a superior class removed from every-day workers who make a country worth living in. If that feeling continues to grow together with the interests which control Kanaka or semi-civilised labour, sooner or later one part of this continent will be the scene of racial strife, which will be dangerous to the welfare of the Commonwealth. What happened when this great man, Mr. Thynne, made the announcement to which I have referred? According to the other side, men like Mr. Thynne were plunging in to save the reputation of the State, but Mr. Thynne was handsomely defeated. Is that not a warning that the hearts and minds of the people of Queensland are in the right direction? The report of no Royal Commission can be equal to the verdict just recently given by the people, when there was simply the one question to be decided. The fiscal issue, in my opinion, did not turn twenty votes in Queensland. There was not one word of the fiscal issue except, in the district represented by the honourable member for Capricornia where they have no Kanakas and where the people are strongly Free Trade.

That is a district in which, I am sure, the honourable member would have found it difficult to succeed had he been in favour of Kanaka labour. This is not a matter for amusement. If the electors, who know the condition of affairs, are dead against the traffic, surely that is a good reason for its abolition. There are times, I admit, when a whole electorate or a whole State, may go mad on a particular question, but when we find for twenty years the liberals and radicals of Queensland have been fighting with the one object of ridding that State of coloured races and especially with the object of stopping the traffic in Kanakas, we must admit that it was not a spasmodic effort to be moral when they sent a number of representatives to this House and to the Senate, pledged against the further recruitment of Kanaka labour. I have said that this Kanaka question has ruined the reputations of many public men. Immediately a public man, however eminent, has felt himself compelled to interfere with this question, or to depart in any way from the straight path, he has lost his position and all this was an indication of what was coming to pass….

Although Queensland has had all the assistance it could have from Kanaka labour and is being now governed and guided by a Ministry which denounces the Federal Prime Minister, men travelled from Bundaberg, Maryborough and other places to Brisbane looking for work. Surely, if the policy of employing Kanakas is a good one, this state of things would not exist? The facts are, however, that the men cannot get work because the Kanakas are employed in their place. One of our greatest difficulties in dealing with this question is to deal with it in a rational way, because of the taunts and jeers we have to submit to. In Queensland the white man is nerver free from the taunt, 'why don't you compete with the Kanaka?' You say you don't believe in him.' The whip of the Phillip Ministry made a challenge to any white man to go to a northern Queensland plantation and compete there with the Kanakas picked out by the manager.

Mr. Macdonald: But he would not put up the money when the time came.

Mr. Fisher: That is so, though I am not concerned about it just now. I ask honourable members if the fact that a white person is physically incapable of greater effort than a coloured person is a proof of his inferiority. We have advanced a stage since it was believed that ability to club one's neighbour was a sign of superiority. Imagine the excruciating pain that a sensitive, delicate white man must feel when he is told that he is not to be compared with the Kanaka. The challenge I speak of was delivered in a speech made on the 30th of July, and appeared on page 203 of the Queensland Hansard report. To show to what lengths people will go in denouncing those who take the side of the white labourer, I should like to make a short quotation from Mr. Hamilton's address:

'The other day we saw in a southern newspaper I think the Herald - a letter written by Major Reay, in which he had said he had been to the north, and was perfectly satisfied white men could do the work. Major Reay experience was to go in in the dead of winter for about an hour in a cane field. But I recollect hearing something about Mr. Reay from a Melbourne man who was here the other day. This gentleman and some others sent …(a)… wire to Lord Kitchener to the following effect - our cup of joy is full, owing to the manner in which our colonists have distinguished themselves. If you will only put Reay where he will get shot our cup will flow over.'

That is the utterance of a distinguished gentleman, who received his information from a Melbourne man. Is there any honourable member in this House who believes that there is another man in Melbourne who would make any such statement? These are the kind of men we have to meet as opponents on this Kanaka question, and is it to be supposed that they will scruple to tell little stories to their own advantage? These are not matters of ancient history, but they are the utterances of our opponents, who are in the Queensland parliament.

Mr. Isaacs: Who said that?

Mr. Fisher: Mr. J. Hamilton, the government whip in Queensland. We hear a great about the distressing character of the work that has to be performed in the cane fields, and we are told that white men cannot do this or that, or the other kind of work. It has long been contended that white men cannot work in the canefields, but it is now being argued that white men cannot work in the mills. If the political pressure were not so great they would not be able to work at any occupation in any part of Queensland…..

I was in the Queensland parliament in 1893, when the Sugar Works Guarantee Bill was introduced. There was an ambiguous clause in that Bill and as we had found from previous experience that we must use exact language in dealing with those who were desirous of employing coloured labour, we introduced an amendment to exclude all coloured people from the mils that were being erected with State money. We 'stonewalled' all night, with the result that early on the morning of the following day Sir Thomas McIllwraith stated that while he was not prepared to make a special exception with mills erected with State money, he was entirely against the employment of coloured labour in thee mills, and that if he found later on that coloured labour was employed in mills he would pass a measure dealing with the question and putting all mills on the same footing. No such measure has however, been passed, and coloured labour is creeping into the mills. I have a communication from my electorate, stating that one mill is using coloured labour and that as a consequence are being unfairly competed with. Surely this is a question that is worthy of being mentioned although it is not one of the matters that the Federal government has touched. I entirely agree with the proposals of the Federal government that the law shall be administered by the States as far as possible. It is best for us to touch this question as lightly as we can - to say what shall be done, and allow the State authorities to carry out the law in the light of their own experience. They are mostly sympathetic with the planters and will no doubt render them every possible help under the circumstances. We all of us desire to assist the planters, but we cannot depart from our principles. If we were to try to help everybody by giving up our principles, we should land ourselves in a state of chaos and destroy all industry. The Kanaka is not essential to the success of the sugar industry and I contend he should be displaced by white labour at the earliest possible moment….

I come now to the larger question, with which I shall deal very briefly. As I have already pointed out, there is in Queensland a class of people which is in touch with a band of speculators resident outside of Australia. For years past these people have been intending that the white race should not attempt to cultivate the soil of, or, indeed, to live in, a large part of Australia except as governors and directors of semi-servile races. That aspect of the question has been forcibly put in London again and again. In Queensland the leading newspaper openly urges the same point. But whilst this journal is pleading for delay by advocating the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the sugar industry, it has maintained that it will never be possible for the white race to develop the tropical portion of Australia. When a newspaper of such standing adopts an attitude of that kind with the object of leading the average elector to suppose that it is opposed to the employment of Kanaka labour, we should be trading on very dangerous ground if we listen to it. We are not afraid of the facts. At the same time, I fear the result of delay in the settlement of this question. The speculators of whom I have spoken are a sleepless body who are gaining wealth by the employment of this class of labour. Many of them are living comfortably in other countries. I ventured the prediction a short time ago that if the industry and the interests involved were three times as large as they are, civil war would result. A prominent politician in the northern State in reply, said 'if the interests were three times as large as they are, you would not be able to deal with the industry.' Yet we are asked in circumstances of this sort to delay action. The question admits of no delay. It can be best dealt with now. We have told the world by means of the Immigration Restriction Bill that we do not desire the presence of coloured aliens here, I hope that we shall tell the world just as emphatically by means of this Bill, not only that do we not need coloured labour to develop our States, but that we deem it inadvisable to have it in our midst. I desire that we shall be able to proclaim to the world that the whole of Australia, and not a part of it, has been reserved for the use of white man. If the northern tropical lands are not developed so speedily by the white race as they would be by Asiatics - and I admit that they will not be - we shall have at least as a set off against that disadvantage one race and one people who are equal in voting people and who are ready and able in time of emergency to defend our shores. I do not admire those advocates of coloured labour who urge that Australians are equal to any men in the world when they go forth to fight the battles of the Empire, but who, when they are sent to earn a pittance of four shillings or five shillings a day in Queensland, say they are inferior. Every other page of the Brisbane Courier contains an insult to the white man. It is urged that he will work for two or three days and then get drunk, that he cannot be relied upon. In my early days it was said that the white man could not be relied upon because the gold field might break out, and he would leave his employment to tempt fortune upon the diggings. The truth is that the white man can never be relied upon if he is to receive only poor habitation conditions and twenty five shillings a week. How can we expect men to foresake all the attractions of a city life for a wage of twenty five shillings a week?…

Is there an honourable member in this House who would give protection to the sugar industry if it had to be carried on by coloured labour? I do not believe that any government would be strong enough to force a protective tariff through parliament, if the employment of Kanakas in the sugar industry were to be continued. The policy of the government is in the interests of the planters themselves. The other day sugar was seven pounds ten shillings a ton in London. Surely, if we are to go to the outside world for the cheapest labour we cannot logically object to compete with every kind of labour. The taunt is sometimes used that so far it has not been proved that white labour can be successfully employed in the thrashing of cane. My reply is that nearly twenty per cent of the sugar growers grow their cane by solely white labour. The Kanaka labourer, our opponents declare, can do more work in the canefield than can the white man and for less than half the wages. I have the greatest admiration for a man who will compete against the Kanaka. At the earliest opportunity we should pass this measure into law, so that the white workers who are prepared to cultivate cane by means of white labour will be entitled to the rebate provided in the fiscal proposals of the government. If I am taking a wrong step upon this question, I am taking it cheerfully. I have received no indication from my constituency which practically produces half the sugar of Queensland, that this measure is an unpopular one, or will be injurious to that particular district. I have in my mind quotations which would be a complete set off to those submitted by the honourable member for Oxley, but I shall not detain the House at this juncture by using them. Immediately the tariff proposals were submitted, Mr. Harrington of Maryborough, an astute businessman, stated that if they were carried every portion of the land in the Wide Bay district which is capable of growing cane should be put under cultivation immediately. Surely that will be a benefit to that district. I ask honourable members where we shall find an inferior class of labour upon inferior land? I have never read or heard of it. It is upon the best lands of Queensland that we find the Kanaka, as it is on the best lands in other countries that we find servile labour. Such as class of labour cannot exist anywhere else. After the first fertility of the soil has departed, and the land has become impoverished, the white man has to go in and till it. Whether it be at Bundaberg, Mackay, Cains or further north, the same rule prevails. Only on the most fertile spots do we find the Kanakas employed and is it the aim of the government that the best lands shall be utilised by inferior labour? I think that the actions of the government will be beneficial to Queensland, will certainly be beneficial to Australia and I am proud to have the honour of assisting in the passing of this measure….

I feel strongly that no interference on the part of Great Britain will be tolerated on this great question. I am ashamed of those in the State of Queensland who talk about appealing to the Colonial Office. If they are going to appeal to the Colonial Office to frustrate the wish of the parliament, I shall oppose them very strongly. If there is to be an attempt to work up an agitation to show that Australians are an inferior class of people, who are to be governed and guided by Downing Street.

Pacific Islanders Labourers' Bill, Commonwealth Parlia-mentary Debates, 6 November 1901, p. 6911, 6913 - 6916.

3. William Morris Hughes

William Morris Hughes was the third Federal Labour leader and its third Prime Minister. Hughes was born in 1862 in London, of Welsh parents. In 1884, he left Britain for Australia. Hughes spent the first eighteen months travelling the New South Wales and Queensland outback. In 1890, Hughes opened a mixed shop in Balmain. Hughes made a living mending umbrellas and doing odd jobs while his wife took in washing. Hughes was a member of the Labour Electoral League and in 1892, he joined the Socialist League as well. Hughes was editor of a short-lived radical weekly called The New Order and in the years 1893-1894 served as a political organizer for an area of New South Wales extending from Yass to Parkes. He was elected for a State seat based upon Pyrmont and Ultimo in inner-Sydney and held it until his entry into Federal Parliament in 1901. While in the New South Wales Parliament, Hughes showed that he was a shrewd political operator by convincing the Labour caucus to switch its support from George Reid to the Protectionists in return for concessions to Labour's programme - such as the early closing of shops. During the 1890's, Hughes consolidated his support in the trades unions; since the 1890 Maritime Strike, the waterside unions had been weak and powerless. Hughes helped change that using his status as a MP, Hughes built up a network of organizers and members before launching the new Wharf Labourers' Union in December 1899 with himself as secretary. His powers were wide and Hughes made the Wharf Labourers' Union one of the most powerful in the country. Hughes gained substantial improvements in wages and hours. Hughes was such a popular union leader that he was also elected president of the Trolley, Draymen and Carters' Union as well.

In 1901, Hughes was elected for the seat of West Sydney, which included the waterfront and he was easily elected. Billy Hughes took a keen interest in defence matters. He foresaw that Australian and British interests may clash in the future. He was convinced that Japan posed a real danger to Australia and was concerned that the British alliance with that power. The only responsible solution was the formation of a national militia. Hughes argued that the state used compulsion in health and education so why not national defence as well? He continued to campaign on this issue and joined the All-Party National Defence League and was vindicated in 1908-9 when the policy was adopted with the support of all major political parties. In Watson's first government, Hughes served as Minister For External Affairs.

In the years 1907 -1911, the Daily Telegraph invited Hughes to contribute a weekly column called 'The Case For Labour'. Week after week, Hughes argued the merits of the labour movement and socialism. In 1907, the leadership of the ALP passed to Andrew Fisher with Hughes elected as his deputy. In 1908, Hughes became Attorney-General.

In April 1910, the voters turned against Deakin and in a landslide Fisher became Prime Minister with large majorities in both Houses of Parliament. During the next three years of Fisher's government, Hughes took a leading role in the Labour government's reform programme. Hughes accordingly sought to extend the Federal government's powers at a referendum; four questions were proposed extending Federal power over commerce, trade, labour and employment, and granting authority over combinations and monopolies. Unfortunately, the state governments resisted any encroachment by the Federal government into these areas and as a result, the changes were rejected.

Billy Hughes was energetic in trying to pursue the extension of Federal power and at the Federal Election held on May 31st 1913, the four questions were submitted, this time separately. Again, they were defeated; although three states voted 'yes', all were defeated by a narrow margin. At the election, the Liberals under Cook won with a one seat majority. The Cook government lasted until June 1914, when Cook obtained a double dissolution of Parliament. Labour won the election and Hughes became Attorney-General for the third time.

The war changed Hughes's economic thinking. Hughes was once a free-trader; now he believed firmly that Australia must develop and control its own industries. Andrew Fisher under increasing strain resigned as leader in October 1915. Hughes was his unopposed successor.

Hughes as Prime Minister believed that Australia had not been consulted adequately regarding the deployment of Australian troops overseas. So he journeyed to London. Hughes also had deep concern about the future of the Pacific. Australian and New Zealand forces took control over German colonies in New Guinea and the South Pacific, but Japan as a British ally seized German islands north of the Equator as well as concessions in China. Hughes feared that the Japanese would use their position to force changes to the White Australia Policy and Australian trade policy. He was also suspicious of British intentions.

After his arrival in London, Hughes made an immediate impact. He said that the British Empire should abandon free trade and create its own tariff bloc.

Hughes also took time to visit Australian troops at the frontline in France. Indeed, Hughes caused some concern to the generals by his willingness to venture too close to the frontlines where his safety was at risk. The Australian troops were so taken by this that they named Hughes 'the little digger'. The terrible conditions at the front sickened Hughes and he came away with a deep admiration for the Australian soldiers. At this time, Hughes began to think that conscription may be necessary to maintain the Australian forces fighting in France. On his return to Australia, Hughes put forward his proposal for conscription. After it was put to the people and defeated by referendum, Hughes's enemies moved against him. A special meeting of Caucus was called. During this stormy meeting, Hughes rose and said: "Enough of this! Let those who think with me, follow me!" Hughes left the room and took with him a third of the Caucus. He then formed the National Labour Party with Liberal support in the Parliament. Attempts were made to re-unite the two Labour parties, but to no avail. The National Labour Party and the Liberals merged to form the Nationalist Party. Hughes put forward a second referendum to introduce conscription, but again it was defeated.

After Hughes was deposed as Prime Minister in 1923, he remained as a back-bencher. He believed that the Bruce-Page government had moved too far in defence of big business and against the workers. Hughes and his supporters within the Nationalist Party crossed the floor and helped bring it down in 1929.

Could it be possible that Hughes realised that his real home was in the Labour Party? If Hughes thought that by helping to bring down the conservative government and bring Labour to power (which happened!), that the Labour Party would welcome him back into the fold, he was sadly mistaken. Too much bitterness from the conscription battle remained. Hughes remained in Parliament and many times crossed the floor or refused to toe the line (such as refusing to resign from the Advisory War Authority when instructed) by his party. Hughes remained as a Federal Member of Parliament until his death in 1952.

"Our chief plank is, of course, a White Australia. There's no compromise about that. The industrious coloured brother has got to go - and remain away! While on that question, no doubt, we shall be able to do something to prevent the influx of European pauper labour by instituting educational tests and making it necessary to have enough enough money to last a month or two without wok. Also importation of labour under contract must be prohibited. Then there's the codification and amendment of the banking laws and the establishment of an Australian national bank, to be run on strictly business, as distinct from political, lines. There are other things, plenty of them, but the great questions are - White Australia - Old Age Pensions - National Bank - and a democratic military system. We shall, at the jump, tackle the question of making the Old Age Pension system apply to the whole continent."

The Bulletin, 16 February 1901.

"I feel that to endeavour to offer any kind of criticism on the most admirable speech delivered by the Attorney General would not only be ungrateful but entirely uncalled for. No man could have put the question, considered from every conceivable aspect, better - few could have put it as well - as the honourable and learned gentleman. I am sure every honourable member and every one outside who reads his words will re-echo their sentiment with reference to the necessity of maintaining the purity of our race. I realise thoroughly that the Attorney General, in putting forward such a defence - I will not say of the provisions underlying this Bill, but of the spirit that animated it - did so because it may be necessary to show those elsewhere that the honourable and learned gentleman speaks not for himself or for his government, but for all Australia in this matter. I am very certain that no government could possibly afford to falter with this question. Certainly the Bill brought forward is one which cannot be held, judged by the standard of previous bills in the same direction, to fall short of what one would desire. While agreeing entirely with all that the Attorney General said as to the necessity of exclusion, while admiring the honourable and learned gentleman's argument in favour of pursuing one course rather than another, yet I venture to think that he did not make his reasons clear for adopting this particular course, rather than that outlined by the honourable members for Wentworth and Bland.

If the honourable and learned gentleman did not it is well. No one would accuse the honourable member for Wentworth of disloyalty, but as to the attitude adopted by the honourable member for Wentworth and the honourable member for Bland, I desire to offer one or two remarks. It has been urged by the Attorney General, as a reason why a prohibition of coloured aliens should not be substituted for the educational test in this Bill, that in the despatches that have been passed and that in the general negotiations that have taken place between the Home government and the colonies, the Home government has stated that although it would not, if pressed, carry out its objection any further, still it would pain Her Majesty to have to assent to a measure which would give offence to Her Majesty's Indian subjects and to foreign nations. I desire to deal with that point for a moment, because is the crux of the whole question. My honourable and learned friend says that the Natal Act met with no objection on the part of Her Majesty's government, and that the Natal Act, as adopted in the states, has been successful….

The Attorney General said that it might be reasonably presumed that the Natal Act would be successful if applied to the whole continent. That is the position taken up. We have no guarantee however, that His Majesty's government would consent to the Bill now under consideration. The honourable and learned gentleman said, as we know, that Her Majesty's government did assent to the Natal Act and the Acts based upon it in the states. Those Acts adopted any European language as the test. Surely that is a very different thing from the adoption of the English language as an educational test in these matters. I want to point out that, if it be a source of offence to discriminate between coloured and white people, if it be a source of offence to the Japanese nation to be included amongst the Polynesians and the degenerate people of the Archipelago, then how much more will it be a source of offence to the European nations to be forbidden entry under this Bill unless they speak the English language? There has never yet been any attempt to adopt a test of this rigorous character as applied to Europeans, and I venture to say, excepting in the case of America, where such a thing may be occasionally done.

I would point out that even if it were accepted in reference to a state, it by no means follows that a measure of this kind would receive the assent of the government when applied to a nation. For my own part, I see absolutely no evidence adduced by the Attorney General to show that we should stop short at this Bill instead of going on to a complete and satisfactory measure for the prohibition of undesirable coloured aliens. Let us see what the Attorney General says. He puts forward as an argument that these aliens who come here are uneducated and ignorant, that the educated and higher classes of coloured aliens do not come here. Then the honourable and learned gentleman delivers a eulogy of the Japanese, of their adaptability, their readiness to accept the teachings of civilization, their pride and their success. All these things are undeniable, and if this measure is aimed at the Japanese it will prove a failure. I do not believe there is a nation more capable of acquiring a knowledge of foreign languages - certainly no Eastern nation - than the Japanese, and I say that a German would as readily be prevented by this Bill from entering Australia as a Japanese. A Russian certainly would, what difficulty is there in the way of a Japanese acquiring a knowledge of fifty words in English? Who would apply the test? The test as applied in New South Wales in many ways is a farce. It is notorious amongst people, whose credibility can hardly be doubted, that the men appointed to make the test supply the information. I do not say that they do so upon receipt of a consideration, but they supply the information, and the candidate gets through. If a person has to write or read fifty words in the English language, and a complaisant official supplies the necessary interpretation, what difficulty is there in the way? Absolutely none. As a matter of fact I am assured, by information received, from the Custom House, that this is done, at least in New South Wales if not elsewhere. The aliens can avoid the test by the simple expedient of getting the Custom House official to supply the information…..

I admit the greatness of the English language whether as a vehicle for the conveyance of the gems of English literature or as a medium for commercial intercourse. I would remind the Attorney General, as a matter of fact, there are a very large number of people in the British Isles who cannot speak a word of English. At least twenty per cent of the people in the country from which I come would be unable to pass this test. Until I was about eight years of age I could not speak one solitary word of the language which is required to be written under the test provided for in this Bill. Not only will many Irishmen and Gaelic Scots be excluded by this test, but also the inhabitants of the Channel Islands whose loyalty, as compared with the average Englishman, is most effusive. The same thing would apply to the French Canadian who, although he may occasionally entertain some doubts as to the wisdom of his allegiance to the Empire, taken him all in all, been a loyal subject during this last century. We are asked to pass provisions which would exclude a number of amiable, industrious, and desirable people, but there is nothing in this Bill to keep out the people we want to keep out. The provisions in the Bill would, I admit, keep out the Andaman Islander or the low-caste Hindoo, but they would not keep out the Japanese, and I doubt whether they would exclude the Chinese. I do not think they would do anything more than shut out the very lowest type of Asiatic. As to excluding the Assyrians, I doubt whether they would have that effect. The Assyrian is a very intelligent man, who engages in commercial relations with white people, and in some cases achieves no paltry success in business, and surely he many be assumed to be able to pass this test. Apart from all this, it is clear from the Attorney General's own admission, that there is no certainty that this Bill will do what it is alleged it will do…

The Attorney General says this is the beginning of a series of Bills - a series which is to end, probably, in the total prohibition of coloured aliens. If we are not to end there, where are we to end? And if we are to end there, why we should we not begin there, why should we hesitate? I can understand the attitude assumed by Her Majesty's government when it is very well known that Her late Majesty, the Queen, entertained a personal affection for her Hindoo subjects which grew on her with advancing years, and caused her to have a personal antipathy to signing anything that would have the effect of excluding them as a race from a part of her dominions. But I have yet to learn that even the personal likes and dislikes of a sovereign of the realm is to guide the destinies of a free people….

It is notorious that today Great Britain stands almost without an ally. She is now driven into a corner and she is dependent upon the support, tardy and reluctant, of Japan, Amongst all the nations of the world Japan is the only one to support Great Britain - that is what I understand, although I do not venture to enter upon a discussion of foreign politics the end of which is a labyrinth and chaotic. I would point that His Majesty's ministers are reluctant to assent to such a Bill as that desired by the honourable member for Wentworth and the honourable member for Bland not because it will offend His Majesty's subjects in India, and not because it will offend the fine susceptibilities or tender feelings of our brothers in Japan, but because it will rob Great Britain of an ally of which she will in the future stand dearly in need ..…

The Attorney General says that those who oppose this principle are in negligible quantity and that whatever their opinions may be they speak them in faint and unintelligible tones. A little while ago there were men who spoke against the exclusion of our coloured brethren from this country but these are now either dead or have been converted, or are suffering from some affliction of the vocal organs, and are dumb as far as this community is concerned. We hear them not, and therefore we are speaking as one people….

The honourable member for Wentworth wished to disclaim any wish - as do we all - to consider the question of what would happen if the government of Great Britain refused to agree to such as measure as we desire. For my part I do not desire, and I do not think there are five per cent of the people of this country who desire separation from Great Britain, but while I do not wish it, I do not fear it. If it is to come it is to come from no act of mine, and it is to come from no act on the part of those who think as we do, but it is to come because we are denied that which we have an alienable right to have. We are to work out our destiny unaffected by that terrible blot referred to by the Attorney General as affecting America, without the leprous curse that is spreading its way through Queensland unhampered and unhindered and which threatens to make it a country no longer fit for a white man, because it will shortly be a country where no white man can compete with our cheap, industrious and virtuous, but undesirable Japanese and Chinese friends. The Attorney General has said that we object to these people, because of their very virtues. I do not object to their virtues, but I say that many of their virtues, when weighed in the economic scale, become vices. For a man to work for a wage of two pence a day a day is a vice which, if it became general amongst white men, would reduce society to chaos. Where would our manufacturers and merchants and storekeepers be? Where would that noble and palatial enterprise, which was honoured by a visit from honourable members of this House today, be if men only earned and spent two pennies a day? There is no vice, and I say it advisedly, like the vice of small expenditure when carried to a ridiculous and un-European length, and as this alien competition aims a blow at the very basis of our industrial system, we oppose it. We are to try this matter not by the standard of some faddist, who writes as of how to cure the unemployed difficulty by teaching people how to live upon six pennies a day, but from the standpoint that it is only be maintaining a certain standard of living that wages are kept up to a decent level. Reduce the standard of comfort and immediately the wages go down. If a horse could live upon a straw a day then a straw a day would be the keep of a horse. Similarly, if I could live on a penny a day, a penny a day would be the amount of my wage. We object to these people because of their vices and of their immorality and because of a hundred things which we can only hint at, and our objections are not to be met by the declaration that the imperial government will be embarrassed by them. We must approach this question as the Americans did the question of the right to govern themselves - in a calm and deliberate spirit. The Attorney General has obtruded into this debate nothing of a personal character - there is no necessity to be personal. This is a matter upon which we may have legitimate differences of opinion. I am an Englishman, and I claim to be as loyal to the Empire as is any man in it. I should be sorry indeed if any act of mine or of any other person, severed the ties which bind us to the Empire. But, just as one may have an undesirable relation who one would hesitate to consign either to a lunatic asylum or to jail, and yet be compelled to do so, so occasions may arise when it may be necessary to be cruel to be just, or even to be kind…..

We must face this matter whilst there is still time. We have talked about their peddling, about alien hawkers. But these are merely the advance guard of the great army of coloured men who, when they go back to their country as the advance guard of the Israelites did of old, will tell their compatriots of the splendid opportunities which await them in the Promised Land. Then the higher classes of coloured men will come in, and the educational test will be swept aside by men who can learn any trade in half the time which it takes a European to acquire it, and who in their own land will erect factories - and who are now making intricate machinery, manufacturing rifles and other things, which are equal to anything produced by the European. And we propose to stop men by the educational test…

We have to decide whether, warned by the lessons of other men, we shall say that we will have a White Australia by the only possible and sure way of getting it, namely, by absolutely prohibiting the introduction of undesirable aliens."

Commonwealth Parliamentary Debates. 12 September 1901, pages 4819, 4820, 4821, 4822, 4823, 4824

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