§ Bill again considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clauses 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 agreed to.
*(4.15.) MR. RATHBONB (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)
I beg to move the addition of the following clause:—Any Act of the Legislature of Western Australia authorising the imposition of restrictions on the emigration of British subjects into Western Australia, other than persons who have been convicted of crime, shall be void.I think we ought, in this House, to guard against any want of forethought upon the part of the colony in future. The object of the clause is to provide that in case the inhabitants of Western Australia desire hereafter to pass a law which would restrict the migration of British subjects to that colony it would be necessary, in the first instance, to obtain the consent of the British Parliament. The Imperial Government ought to act as trustees, not only of the 40,000 persons who now constitute the inhabitants of Western Australia, but of all British subjects who desire to colonise that region. It may be said that at present there is no danger of such an interdiction being proposed, because the Western Australians are anxious for immigration. But that is just the reason why we should embrace the 472 opportunity of laying down a rule which would prevent the possibility in future of hurried and unwise legislation, and perhaps do that which it would be impossible to undo. A real danger exists, and I trust that that want of foresight which has hitherto characterised the regulation of our colonies will not be further extended. Anyone who watches the current of events in foreign countries will see that there is danger, and that a strong feeling is being expressed against the continuance of emigration to fields which have hitherto been open to the subjects of this country. We may learn a great deal from- the action of the United States. The people there are the most advanced of all the democratic countries in the world, and have had a greater experience of democracy than any other, but anyone who has studied the course of politics there will see that there future difficulties and dangers threaten them in reference to emigration. What I ask now is that we should take precautions against hasty legislation in times of peculiar pressure in the future. Let me give an instance. The American people have found that one of the greatest dangers to democracy is an unwise and profuse expenditure in regard to local matters, the result of the past action on the part of more than one local legislature having been to reduce the localities to the verge of bankruptcy. The American people have, therefore, in nine of the principal States of the Union grafted upon their Constitution laws which prevent local expenditure or local taxation from exceeding a certain amount. In that way the hands of the Local Legislatures have been tied, so that it requires two or three years of successive action before an excessive expenditure can be incurred. That, I think, would be the effect of the proposal I now make. Hitherto, there has been no Federal Constitution in Australia, and, consequently, our legislation cannot take the exact form which it has taken in the American States; but the Imperial Government is responsible, not merely to the present inhabitants of Western Australia, but for all time. I am not afraid of the democracy acting in any ungenerous or narrow spirit if they have time to think, and can have the justice of the case placed before them by those whom they are willing to listen to. 473 But I cannot forget that a few years ago, after a period of lengthened distress in America, the working classes became irritated at the change in their condition, and took steps to prevent emigration. Similar reaction from overtrading may happen in Western Australia, and I am afraid that if it does the blame will be attached to the emigrants from England, Scotland, and Ireland, who go over there to compete with the colonists in their work, and that, under the pressure of temporary distress, the colony may be tempted to pass hasty and unwise laws against emigration from this country. And when once bad laws are imposed it is difficult to make a retreat. I, therefore, propose that no such legislation shall be permissible on the part of the inhabitants of Western Australia against their fellow-subjects in this country without an appeal to Parliament. The witnesses who were examined before the Committee which sat recently upon this subject expressed their willingness to accept a clause in the direction of my Amendment, and I think the House would display a gross want of forethought if they neglect the present opportunity of protecting those portions of Her Majesty's subjects who may hereafter desire to emigrate.
§ New Clause (Emigration of British subjects,) brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read the second time."
§ *(4.28.) MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)
The hon. Member has assigned various reasons in support of his proposal, and among them he has referred to the evidence before the Select Committee. But it so happens that not a single witness was in favour of this clause. One after another, including Sir William Robinson, the present Governor, and Sir Napier Broome, the late Governor, they all stated that there is no necessity for it, and the only evidence which in the slightest degree justifies what my hon. Friend has stated was that of Mr. Parker, one of the leading men in the colony. And all that Mr. Parker said was that the introduction of Chinese British subjects under Clause 8 might give rise to a considerable amount of agitation, and, therefore, he was in favour of in- 474 serting in the clause "not being Chinese;" and when the difficulty of the Imperial Authorities legislating against the Chinese was brought to his notice; he also thought that the whole clause should be abandoned. We know that the Australians will not allow Chinese to go into their territories. They would come in hundreds and thousands from Penang, from Singapore, and from Hong Kong if they were once allowed to enter. Surely it is better to allow these colonies to settle the question, of emigration themselves instead of taking it into your own hands. The Amendment is perfectly unnecessary. For there, every law passed by any Australian Legislature may within two years be annulled by the Crown. The consequence is that if any Act is passed which may prevent British emigrants going to Australia, it may be annulled at any time within two years after its passage. There is also another reason why the clause is unnecessary. In the general form of instructions given to the Governors of colonies there is included a clause providing that they are to reserve for the consideration of the Crown any Act which is to the prejudice of any British subject, and under that clause every Act which has been passed against the immigration of British subjects, including Chinese, has been reserved for the consideration of the Crown. For these reasons I think it is quite unnecessary, and it would certainly be very objectionable to the Australian Colonies, that a clause of this sort should be inserted in this Bill.
§ (4.34.) MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (Leith, &c.)
No one could have more sympathy than I have with the view of my hon. Friend (Mr. Rathbone) as to the desirability of providing such outlets as we can for our surplus population. I think, however, that the proposed Amendment would not attain the object my hon. Friend has in view, and the hon. Member who has just spoken has shown that the proposal is entirely unnecessary. The point which has been raised with regard to Chinese subjects of Great Britain is one of the utmost importance. We are asked to give Parliamentary sanction to the emigration of Chinese into Western Australia. I think it is most undesirable. It is undesirable that this 475 country should have so disagreeable a matter brought under its jurisdiction as that of having to decide whether or not the Chinese should be freely admitted into the British Empire. It has been found necessary in America to put restrictions upon the immigration of Chinese, and I think very rightly so. In Canada the same course has been adopted, and in that case it was also very desirable. In the present situation in Australia I do not think it would be for the welfare of the State that the Chinese should be allowed free entry. On the other hand, the value of Chinese support in our relations with the East is of an importance that cannot be denied, and I deprecate the attempt to introduce disturbing questions of this kind into the relative positions of the two countries.
§ (5.36.) MR. RANKIN (Herefordshire, Leonftnster)
I am ready to support the Amendment or some modification of it, and I think that the difficulty with regard to the Chinese, who are also British subjects, may be met by some slight alteration in the wording of the new clause proposed by the hon. Member for Carnarvonshire. We must remember that this country is making an enormous concession to the Western Australians, and I think it is only reasonable that we should insist upon the imposition of some conditions. The Western Australians are the English, Scotch, and Irish of a few years back, and will be the English, Scotch, and Irish of a few years to come; and it seems to me right that, when making such an enormous concession to these few persons, we should obtain conditions which will be for the benefit of our own nation for years to come. I fully endorse what has been said as to the likelihood of our requiring outlets for the people, and I would strongly press on the Government that they should adopt some clause of this sort. The Government themselves, by the clause (8) which they put into their own Bill at first, show that they consider some arrangement about this matter of emigration in the future is necessary and just, and lam sure that the Western Australians would gladly accept such a clause. It is true that the other Australian Colonies are by no means ready to welcome our emigrants now; and as this region is 476 practically the only one left over which we have any control, I think it would be an act of folly to throw away our last chance of getting settlements for our people.
§ *(4.39.) MR. A. M'ARTHUR (Leicester)
I entirely dissent from the sentiments which have been just expressed by the hon. Member opposite. I think a more useless Amendment was never proposed in this House. It would be of no good whatever for any Australian Colony to attempt to put restrictions in the way of emigration. In New South Wales and Victoria, as I have already stated on a former occasion, the Governments have always been most anxious to encourage emigration. They do not want the sweepings of our streets or paupers, but the more emigrants of the right sort the better they are pleased; and a more foolish idea never entered into the brain of man than that emigration is injurious to the industries of the colonies. Experience has proved that even the working classes of the colonies profit by it, though it is difficult to persuade them of the fact. The working classes of the colonies have opposed it and have brought great pressure to bear upon their Governments, with the result that, whereas previously those Governments used to give £50,000 or £100,000 a year to emigration, nothing at all is now given. The colonies want emigration, but the Governments cannot bring it about, and I think it would be well if some fund could be placed at the disposal of the West Australian Government for the promotion of immigration.
§ (4.42.) MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I do not think there is any fear in the mind of anyone who has travelled in the Australian Colonies that the Australian people will ever impose any real disability on citizens of this country desiring to go to Australia. The idea is absurd, but it is true, no matter whether you pass this clause or not, that the Australian people will certainly reserve to themselves the same rights as are enjoyed by the American people for the control of immigration. They will insist, no matter what the English Parliament may do, on their right to restrict objectionable immigration. This objectionable immigration comes under three heads. First of all, that of the Chinese subjects 477 of Her Majesty; secondly, of the coolies from India, which is objected to by a large section of the community, and also of those that reside in the Fiji Islands and the Southern Sea. The latter class of immigrants are admitted in some places, but objected to in others, and not allowed to land. The proposed clause will become more and more onerous in proportion to the increase of white labour in the colony. But there is another class of immigration which the Australian Colonies are beginning to object to, and will increasingly object to, namely, the importation of paupers from other countries. No matter what this House passes, Australia will not allow you to land your paupers on her shores. And more than that, I believe they will shortly stop the system of contract labour which the American people are now legislating against—the system under which large employers of labour enter into contracts with bodies of men to work for them, giving them free passages and giving them a fixed rate of wages lower than the rate generally prevailing in the country. As has been pointed out, Western Australia will have no right to pass any Act without the consent of the Crown; but what would be the result if the House were so ill-advised as to pass any clause of this kind? Simply to bring ourselves into collision with the Legislature of Western Australia. When the Act excluding the Chinese from New South Wales was sent home for the consideration of the Crown, the Executive of the colony did not wait for the assent of the Crown, but at once stopped the Chinese coming into the country, thus setting the authority of the Imperial Parliament at defiance. That is exactly what would happen in Western Australia if any such clause as this were agreed to, and you know that public opinion in this country would not back you up in any high-handed proceeding against the colony. Do you mean to say that you would tie up the hands of the people of Western Australia by a clause of this kind? If they take the matter in their own hands, what are you going to do? I believe that in the whole history of the Australian Colonies the only other instance in which Australia undertook to interfere with the free landing of British subjects from the United Kingdom was 478 when they would not allow certain informers in the Phoenix Park murder case to land. They had no law to justify their action; but the Executive of the Colony, trusting to their own judgment, and having confidence in the people, took it upon themselves to do it. They said, "We will not allow these men to land, as it would interfere with public peace and tranquillity." These men had committed no crime. They were sent out by the Home Government, who were under apprehensions as to their safety; but the Executive of the colony said, "We will not let them land," and the Home Government acquiesced in that decision. I maintain that this clause is unnecessary and mischievous, and calculated to lead to future trouble with the colony.
*(4.49.) THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOE THE COLONIES (Baron H. do WORMS,) Liverpool, East Toxteth
Her Majesty's Government appreciate the motives of the hon. Member who moves the clause; but, at the same time, I think he can judge from the arguments put forward on both sides of the House that it cannot be inserted in the Bill. Her Majesty's Government are anxious to do all in their power to promote emigration, but I do not think that the method he has suggested would be likely to forward that object. Independently of that consideration, I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that the course he proposes is entirely without precedent. The other Australian Colonies have received responsible Government, but no such regulation was ever imposed on them, and if Western Australia is entitled to responsible Government the House would not be justified in imposing upon her restrictions that would be entirely foreign to those to which the other Australian Colonies are subjected. I would further point out to the hon. Member that the evidence produced before the Committee was entirely opposed to his view. All the witnesses examined—or all those who had had the best opportunity of forming an opinion—expressed them selves in the same sense as the hon. Member for Leicester. They said, "The Western Australians would reject any legislation of this sort;" and the fact of an enormous tract of land being handed over to them is rather in favour of than against their doing all they can to promote emigration. We have been told that 8,000 may be 479 taken to represent the adult male population of Western Australia. I do not pledge myself to the accuracy of those figures; but, if they are correct, surely that is an argument in favour of the proposition that these men will do all they can to invite labour to their shores, for the purpose of developing to the utmost the resources of the vast area so sparsely populated. Two Governors of the colony have testified to the fact that Western Australia would strenuously oppose any such clause as this. They object, as I suppose we should object, to a wholesome system of immigration which, to use a familiar Colonial expression, dumps down on their shores large numbers of paupers and criminals. And I think they are justified in that objection; and to say that they shall not be allowed to enforce any regulation with regard to that matter which shall not previously have received the assent of Parliament in this country is to impose upon them a restriction which is unfair and not in accordance with the principles of responsible Government. Further. The Act to remove doubts as to the validity of Colonial Laws, the 28 and 29 Vict., cap. 63, provides, in Sections 2 and 3, as follows:—Any Colonial Law which is or shall be in any respect repugnant to the Provisions of any Act of Parliament extending to the Colony to which such Law may relate, or repugnant to any Order or Regulation made under Authority of such Act of Parliament, or having in the Colony the Force and effect of such Act, shall be read subject to such Act, Order, or Regulation, and shall to the extent of such Repugnancy, but not otherwise, be and remain absolutely void and inoperative. No Colonial Law shall be or be deemed to have been void or inoperative on the ground of Repugnancy to the Law of England unless the same shall be repugnant to the Provisions of some such Act of Parliament, Order, or Regulation as aforesaid.I think the new clause of the hon. Gentleman would be in contravention of these sections; but be that as it may, I hope that, in view of the fact that such a regulation has never been adopted in the case of any of the other colonies, and taking into consideration the fact that the evidence taken before the Committee was strongly against the principle affirmed by the clause, the hon. Gentleman will not divide the Committee, and will accept the views I have laid before him.
§ (4.56.) SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)
While I think the Amendment right, I doubt if the hon. Member will be able to carry it, or whether Her Majesty's Government will be at all likely to be induced to accept it, because now that we are giving Western Australia so-called "statesmen"—who are somewhat on a level with the Councillors of a tenth-rate town in this country—responsible Government, it would hardly be of any use to try and impose on the colony terms different to those we impose on other colonies. If this clause is imposed on Western Australia, we ought to impose it on all the other colonies. I think it is a clause that ought to be imposed on all the other colonies, but Her Majesty's Government do not dare to impose it on them. They dare not say "boo" to the colonies nowadays. There was a time—a century ago—when we were inclined to tyrannise over the colonies, but now the colonies tyrannise over us. The hon. Member for Mayo told us that New South Wales defied the law in regard to foreign immigration. He referred to the Chinese question. I am sure he did not wish to raise that question, but was desirous only of raising the question of what we may call the immigration of European-British subjects. The question is, whether the white subjects of Her Majesty from these British Islands should be allowed to emigrate from this country to Western Australia. Then my hon. Friend the Member for Mayo (Mr. Dillon) says we should have to make war upon these colonies in order to force our emigrants upon them. You cannot make war upon these colonies, but you can withdraw your connection and refuse to occupy the humiliating position we now occupy. You dare not contradict your colonies. You give them all they want; but when you want anything from them, you dare not insist upon having it. We are consenting to this tyrannical, overbearing treatment of the colonies. It seems to me it would be far better to say to the colonies: "If you desire to maintain the connection with us, and to retain our assistance, you must accede to our demands. Otherwise, let us part amicably." If the colonies quarrelled with other countries we should be bound to back them, whether they were right or wrong; and I think 481 that if the connection is to continue, they should at least submit to the reasonable demands of this country. One of those demands is that, as long as this is a United Empire, the citizens of one part shall be free to go to another part, and shall not be shut out by restrictive rules. We are told that the Australians must not admit paupers. There are paupers and paupers. A man who is unfitted to earn his bread ought not to be sent out, but I do not think that poor men ought to be shut out if they are able to earn their bread, although they may not be able to do so in this country.
§ *(5.5.) SIR G. BADEN-POWELL (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
I should like to mention one consideration which I hope will induce the hon. Member to withdraw his Amendment. There is no Australian Legislature that has yet imposed restrictions on the immigration of British subjects into Australia. That which hon. Members mistake for such legislation is a provision against spending the money of the colonies upon taking emigrants to Australia. I may remark in this connection that the chief difficulty in regard to emigration is its cost. It has been conclusively proved that it costs between £20 and £30 to transfer a human being from this country to Australia and to settle him there. The Australians, however, are not likely in any way to interfere with the immigration of British subjects provided we pay for it. There are two technical objections to this Amendment: One is, that it would permit Chinese and coolie immigration; and the other, that the only persons exempt would be those convicted of crime. There already exist Customs Acts which prevent the landing in these colonies of persons who are not convicted of crime, including lunatics; and other persons who are hopeless paupers. I think the Amendment would not be objected to by the Australians, for the reason that they do not intend to carry out any regulation forbidding the immigration of capable citizens. But I think it is unnecessary, and that it would be very injudicious, to say the least of it, to put it into the Bill.
§ (5.7.) MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
I believe the true policy of this House and of the country is to 482 trust the colonists in this matter of emigration. I have, however, only risen to correct an error inadvertently made by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir G. Campbell) yesterday, and which might have some importance in Australia. He quoted from a letter which he stated was from my correspondent, Mr. Hensman, but which was, in fact, written by another gentleman to the hon. Member for Flintshire (Mr. S. Smith), and which was in opposition to responsible Government. It is of some importance to Mr. Hensman that I should say neither he nor anyone else I know of acting in connection with him in Western Australia has written to me or anyone else words contrary to the adoption of responsible Government in Western Australia. The objection taken by Mr. Hensman and his friends was solely to the form of the Bill.
§ (5.9.) MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
I have refrained from speaking on this Bill in the hope that it would pass the House at a much earlier period, and I have how to express my extreme regret that those who have thought it their duty to oppose the Bill should have made use of words of opprobrium towards the Australian Colonies. It can have no good effect, and may lead to ill-feeling between the colonists and ourselves such as we all wish to avoid. It would be an absurdity to add such an Amendment to the Bill. I hope that neither here nor elsewhere will restrictions be imposed on emigration; but we must hot forget that these are just the questions which arise at times when labour is plentiful and wages are falling, and these are just the occasions when the colonists would be tempted to rebel against any tie upon them. I will not push the matter further, as I understand the hon. Member does not intend to carry his Amendment to a Division, I regret that against any portion of our colonial dominions suggestions of jobbery and insult, and trying to trample upon us, words which may go to the other side of the world, and be treated there as of more importance than they deserve, should be uttered in this House.
§ *MR. RATHBONE
I have never said one word in disparagement of the Australian Colonies. I must confess that the arguments of the Under Secretary for the Colonies are somewhat extraordinary coming from a Member of a Government who, with the consent of the Representatives of Western Australia, inserted in the Bill a clause very similar to my own. Let me point out that if this clause were read a second time it would be perfectly competent for the House to introduce words confining it to the interests of the inhabitants of the United Kingdom. The hon. Member for Shropshire talked of millions of Chinese coming in as British subjects. The hon. Gentleman—and other Members who have spoken—seem to forget that the Chinese difficulty exists now, and that it will exist if the Australians pass laws against the immigration of Chinese, laws which have to be sanctioned by Her Majesty's Government. The Queen will have to give her sanction to any of the laws which are passed against the Chinese by the Australians, and, therefore, my proposal is a wise one, because the fact of such a law existing will probably prevent objectionable legislation being proposed in Australia in times of pressure. The Under Secretary for the Colonies says there is no precedent for what I suggest. I admit there is not. I contend there is no precedent for proper foresight and statesmanship on the part of the Government of this country in dealing with our colonies. We have never taken sufficient care to look ahead more than one or two years, hence the difficulties that have occurred, and will occur again. I am afraid that there is a disposition on the part of the present Government to deal only with the difficulties of to-day, and that there is little hope of my persuading the House to look further ahead.
§ Question put, and negatived.
*(5.22.) MR. P. MORGAN (Merthyr Tydvil)
I beg to move the new clause which stands in my name, which is to the effect that, whether the lands be alienated or not, the gold and silver mines be vested in the Colonial Legislature. As I understand the Bill, by it the gold and silver to be found in the lands of Western Australia will pass under the general words of the 484 clause to the persons who become possessed of the lands. I believe that the Crown cannot divest itself of the precious metals without a special Act. In this country the gold and silver found even in copper mines is vested in the Crown. Though a man may own the fee-simple of his lands and is entitled to all the mines and minerals they contain, yet he cannot touch the gold and silver without the permission of, or an arrangement with, the Crown. There is another reason why what I propose should be emphasised by a new clause. The rights of the Crown, or rather the Colonial Legislature, should be reserved in the same way as they are here at home. I am possessed of certain lands in Wales with all the mines and minerals. My predecessors in title have possessed the same rights of ownership, yet directly I attempted to mine for gold or silver on lands of which I hold the title deeds, giving me the right to the mines and minerals, I was prevented to work the lands in search of gold and silver. If therefore, I was prevented from gold mining in this country á fortiori, the colonists of Western Australia should not be entitled either to seek for gold and silver without permission of the Local Legislature. Not only would I have my new clause apply to the mines of gold and silver contained in the lands to be handed over to the control of the Legislature of Western Australia, but to all lands that have been alienated. I have lived a long time in Australia, and although I have not taken part in the Debate on the Bill as a whole, yet, not with standing that the franchise under it may be regarded as too high, I consider that it is a good Bill, and I congratulate the Government upon introducing it. I hope that it will be speedily passed into law. In the Colony of Victoria land* which have been alienated 20, 30, or 50 years are found afterwards to contain precious metals; and, recently, a special Act of the Local Legislature has been passed whereby the right to the precious-metals shall revert after 10 years to the Crown. I wish that this should be done at once in Western Australia for the benefit of working men, who would then have nothing to do but pay their fee of 10s. each, and with their picks begin to dig for gold—even on the alienated lands—to enter upon the lands of private 485 persons in Western Australia; of course by paying compensation, as now can be done in Victoria. It is with this object in view that I propose the new clause.
§ New Clause (Mines and Minerals) (Mr. P. Morgan), brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be now read a second time.
§ BARON H. DE WORMS
I think the hon. Gentleman has scarcely considered his own clause, or he would have found it is absolutely unnecessary. In the first place, he speaks of all mines. "All mines" include gold and silver mines. Then again, "minerals" include gold and silver. That is the opinion of the highest Legal Authorities. As to the second part of the clause, let me point out that it would be retrospective and its effect would amount to confiscation.
*MR. P. MORGAN
All I want to do is to put the Government of Western Australia in precisely the same position with reference to land that has been alienated as the Government of this country professes to be in.
§ BARON H. DE WORMS
What I suggest is, that you ought not to take away rights that already exist in certain individuals and transfer thorn to the Legislature without compensation.
§ (5.29.) DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman understands the point. My hon. Friend's point is that he possesses lands in Wales just as much as any man possesses lands in Australia, and that when he mines in Wales the Crown comes down and charges him royalty. He claims that the Government of Western Australia should be placed in the same position. Just as you prevent the hon. Member from mining in Wales for gold, unless he pay s the royalties, so the colonists, in permitting the sale of lands should reserve these royalties on metals. It is an important question for the colonies, and whether the gold mining industry of Western Australia will be advanced or hindered depends upon how it is settled.
§ *(5.31.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir R. WEBSTER,) Isle of Wight
In a few words I think I can remove all doubts, though I notice the two hon. Gentlemen 486 do not approach the subject in the same way. First, I will deal with the objection of the hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the Amendment. Mines and minerals in the United Kingdom do not include the royal metals, and therefore arise those issues and Crown claims which have arisen in certain cases. In regard to these waste lands in Australia the position is wholly different, and there can be no doubt whatever that all mining rights, and the right to prospect for the precious metals, will be vested by the Act in the Legislature of the colony. With regard to prospecting upon lands already leased, that must depend upon grants already made. If rights have been disposed of, of course the arrangements made must be respected, but all rights else will be vested in the Legislature, with whom will be the power to licence to prospect for all minerals. The object of the Amendment is, I submit, carried out by the Bill.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ *(5.33.) MR. MUNRO FERGUSON
The new clause which I have to propose arises out of circumstances which were referred to yesterday on the subject of the pearl fisheries. The Federal Council passed an Act applying to British ships and boats, allowing certain regulations to be enacted by the Legislative Council of Western Australia. These powers are defined in the Bill, but then follows the words "And any Act amending the same." In replying to me in the last discussion the Under Secretary said that Acts dealing with this subject were Acts of the Federal Council, and, therefore, Western Australia had no power to rescind or deal with these Acts. But to this I have to refer to the words I have quoted, which delegate to Western Australia powers under any Act for amending the Acts cited. Further it was asked if the Federal Council gave power to legislate for extra territorial waters, and the right hon. Gentleman replied "Certainly not." I will leave the Under Secretary to explain how this answer conforms to legislation which has been passed by the Federal Council, and which enables the Western Australia Federal Councils to amend and apply Acts to extra territorial waters. I need not dwell on points of detail; they are well known. It is the fact that this affects the relations between 487 this country and Western Australia which compels me to move this new clause.
§ New Clause (Jurisdiction in extraterritorial waters), brought up, and read the first time.
§ Question proposed, "That the Clause be now read a second time."
§ *(5.36.) SIR R. WEBSTER
This is a subject which the Solicitor General and I had brought under our notice; but, speaking from recollection, it does not come within the Bill at all.
§ *SIR R. WEBSTER
I am not aware of any clause in the Bill. I may be under misapprehension. It was no part of my duty to look at the Schedule in connection with this subject.
§ *MR. MUNRO FERGUSON
The part upon which I ground my reason for the clause is the sub-section of the Schedule (60), which deals with the levying of duties on imports.
§ *SIR R. WEBSTER
That gives no warrant for the new clause. That is a Customs' clause, whereas the Fishery clauses are in the nature of police regulations, by which the various colonies under the Federal Act are enabled to regulate their own fisheries. The hon. Member now proposes that it shall not be lawful for the Legislature of the colony to exercise any jurisdiction in extra territorial waters, but the levying of duties on imports cannot affect ships sailing in those waters, notwithstanding any powers delegated by the Federal Council. Now, the hon. Member purposes to deal with a subject which, so far as I know, has never been discussed in this connection. My recollection of the matter is that, under the Federal Council Act, power was given to each colony t J make its own regulations in respect to pearl fishing. The Schedule of the Bill does not touch the question at all. The Federal Council of Australasia has dealt with the matter and settled it in an Act which has been approved by Her Majesty, and it would be quite inconsistent with anything in the Bill, which does not propose to deal with fishery regulations, to pass such a clause. The question, if raised at all, should be raised on a proposal to amend the Federal Councils Act.
§ (5.41.) MR. HALDANE (Haddington)
I am unable to agree with the Attorney General that this is not germane to the Bill. In 1883 the Legislature of this country adopted a distinct policy in regard to extra territorial Australian waters, and by Section 15 of the Act of that year exclusive power is given to the Federal Council to legislate in respect to these waters, and the regulations for fishing were placed under the authority of the Federal Council. But under the Bill, which became law in 1889, the Federal Council have done what seems to me an extraordinary thing, they have delegated their powers of regulating, among other things, the pearl fishing in extra territorial waters off Western Australia to the Legislative Council of Western Australia.
§ MR. HALDANE
It is a matter of reference to the Act. Certain Acts are defined, but then follows the significant line, "and also any Act amending any of the same." Then, by Section 5 of the Act, there is a provision that it shall not be lawful to employ in the pearl fishing ships or boats in waters adjacent to Western Australia, unless such ships are duly licensed. In this way control is given to the Legislature of Western Australia over extra territorial waters adjacent to the colony, and directly contrary to the Act we debated in 1885. I should like to know if the Law Officers were consulted in reference to the Act, for there is the gravest reason to suppose the Federal Council acted ultra vires in delegating this power. This being so, British boats have been taxed by having import duties levied on them in a way that has certainly created some ill-feeling, and we are entitled in this Bill to put some restriction on the Legislature, which is now being re-constituted, in reference to the exercise of such powers. Here is a Bill recognising a new Constitution for Western Australia, and here we have an opportunity of saying what are the limits within which jurisdiction shall be enforced. It may be that Sub-section 60 in the schedule refers to treaty obligations, but that has nothing to do with whether it is right and proper to deal with the matter here. It seems to me it is perfectly right to take the opportunity 489 to put a limitation on the powers granted.
§ (5.47.) SIR R. WEBSTER
I am sorry the hon. and learned Gentleman should have thought it necessary to adopt this tone. I think it has been practically determined by the House that we cannot make any Amendment to the scheduled Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman has brought forward no evidence to justify him in stating that there has been any gross abuse in the action of the Federal Council of Australasia, and he then goes on to ask a question which he knows cannot be answered—namely, whether the Law Officers were consulted. I do not admit that the House has before it any facts upon which to base the conclusion that the Federal Council have delegated their power, or done anything which they had not a right to do. But, even if it were so, that is not a matter which has to do with this Bill, and I respectfully protest against this side attempt to fetter the hands of the Council and the Government of Western Australia.
§ (5.49.) SIR G. CAMPBELL
At present Western Australia does exercise certain powers over non. Australian vessels trading from Singapore and other parts. That may be a jurisdiction British shipowners do not like, but at all events they have at the present time the consolation of knowing that the Crown Executive is under the control of the Secretary of State, so that, in a sense, they are not without protection, but the grievance will be greatly aggravated when you give up all control to the West Australian Government.
(5.50.) MR. J. MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
I understand that not one single foreign vessel has ever come within these waters for pearl fishing. Further, if a vessel should come, it is also certain that every two weeks or so it would have to put into one of the ports of Western Australia to refit, &c. I take it that the moment such foreign vessel puts into a Western Australian port she would not be able to depart until she had taken out a licence and paid the duty. The case, however, has not arisen, and is not likely to arise.
§ (5.51.) MR. MUNRO FERGUSON
The question is the imposition of a tax on British ships engaged in a certain industry. I do not think the Attorney General can have read the evidence before the Special Committee, for this question was gone into very fully. Western Australia has been given certain powers by the Federal Council, and we are now asked to give her fresh powers, and some of the powers granted by the Federal Council have been exercised to the prejudice of Englishmen fishing in the extra territorial waters of Western Australia, and we have, I think, a fair right to ask that in the granting of these new powers they shall be exercised without prejudice to other rights of Englishmen in these waters.
§ (5.52.) MR. HALDANE
I think we have a right to complain of the way in which we have been treated in this matter. It seems to me that neither the Under Secretary or the Attorney General have taken the trouble to get up the facts. Last night I asked the Under Secretary whether the Federal Council had conferred powers upon Western Australia to legislate for extra territorial waters, and the right hon. Gentleman answered, rather recklessly, as I thought, "Certainly not." But I think we have shown that the Federal Council has conferred such powers on the Legislative Council of Western Australia, and until we have some better explanation I shall continue to say so, and I do not think there can be much doubt about it. The Attorney General says the matter was never before the Committee, and, therefore, ought not to be discussed, but, as a matter of fact, the subject was fully and specifically before the Committee in evidence. I am so far in sympathy with the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle that I express no opinion upon the exercise of the licensing power. But I do say that this House, having said that the Federal Council is the proper authority to exercise this jurisdiction, the Council has delegated the powers to the Legislature of Western Australia, and that it has been exercised not in accordance with the policy which received legislative sanction in 1885. We cannot know how far the opinion of the Law Officers confirmed the validity of the Act of 1889, but we are entitled to make 491 provision for what may happen in the future.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Schedules and Preamble agreed to.
§ Bill reported to the House without Amendment.
§ *(6.0.) MR. W. H. SMITH
I trust I may appeal to the House to read the Bill a third time. There is a very general feeling in its favour, although there may be some difference as to details.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill he now read the third time."
§ (6.1.) DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I must object. The Bill has not been fully discussed, because the Closure was applied on a most important clause last night.
§ (6.2.) MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
If the Government had treated the opposition to the third clause of this Bill in a spirit of fairness the appeal might have been acceded to; but I think we have a right to complain of their conduct towards us. We were only allowed an hour and a quarter to discuss a most important Amendment, whereas three or four hours were given to the discussion of an Amendment of a far less important character. I know that the hon. Members for Morpeth and the Wansbeck Division of Northumberland were anxious, with other hon. Members, to speak on my Amendment; and the Government were perfectly aware of the fact that we desired to discuss a principle dear to the hearts of hundreds of thousands of men out of doors. This was the first opportunity we had had of raising a Debate on it, and yet the Government allowed us only an hour and a quarter. Under these circumstances, many of us think we are justified in opposing the Third Reading of the Bill being taken to-day.
§ (6.3.) MR. BURT (Morpeth)
As I gather that the First Lord of the Treasury is prepared to assent to the postponement of the Third Reading, I will reserve what I have to say on the principle of the Bill until the Motion for the Third Reading is made. With regard to the very small opportunity we had last night of Debate on what I regard as the chief 492 principle of the Bill, it is true that a good deal of time was occupied on other parts of the Bill; but I do submit that on that one question there certainly was not ample discussion.
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
I had hoped that the House would agree to read this Bill a third time. I think there have been ample opportunities of discussing it. If the proposal to which hon. Members refer had been accepted the Bill would have been lost, and, under these circumstances, I hope hon. Members will not think the Government exercised undue authority in asking for the Closure last night.
(6.7.) MR. J. MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
I, for one, shall very much regret if the House declines to assent to the Third Reading of the Bill. I have been reproached in regard to my attitude towards the Bill, which I am told is an unusual attitude for a Member of the Opposition. We who have voted with the Government in support of the measure have not, as is suggested, been supporting the Bill of the Government, bat the Bill sent over from the Western Australian Legislature. The Bill of the Government, as it went before the Select Committee, is not the Bill now before the House. We succeeded in Committee, without much pressure upon the Under Secretary, in transforming the Bill in two very Radical particulars—in procuring the excision of Clauses 4 and 8. It will be most disastrous if we are going to turn colonial legislation into the vortex of Party politics. It is quite true that a very short time was allowed for the discussion of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Haggerston. I regret it was so, but so much time had been taken up needlessly with discussion on other Amendments that the hon. Gentleman suffered for the excesses of others. The course which has been taken in regard to the Bill, after it was submitted to full discussion in a Select Committee which is admitted to be impartial and not animated by Party considerations, is to be regretted.
§ (6.10.) MR. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)
The Government have themselves to blame for the objection 493 now taken to the Third Reading of the Bill. They allowed great latitude to a certain hon. Gentleman, who ultimately withdrew the Amendment, and when the First Lord made up his mind to Closure that Debate my hon. Friends supported him in his action. Yet, on what we considered to lie the most important Amendment, we were only allowed three speeches before the Leader of the House, most unfairly, in my opinion, Closured us. The present opposition is, I repeat, due to the unfair manner in which the Opposition was treated last night by the Closuring of the Debate after insufficient discussion (Upon what was, perhaps, the crux of the whole Bill. I, for my part, shall certainly oppose the Third Reading being now taken.
§ *(6.12.) MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)
I have the greatest sympathy with my hon. Friend the Member for Haggerston with regard to the way in which his Amendment was Closured last night, seeing that the subject was one of great interest to many Members. I think we have good reason to protest against so important a Bill being so rapidly pushed through its stages by the application of the Closure.
§ (6.13.) MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
I shall certainly object to the Third Reading. I heard an hon. Member opposite speak of this Bill last night as the most important piece of legislation before the House during the whole Session. I do not think it was right on the part of the right hon. Gentleman last night to rush it through the House as he did.
§ (6.14.) MR. WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)
I have endeavoured to help the Government through with this measure by religiously abstaining from uttering a single syllable in the course of the Debate, but the impression made upon my mind by the action of the Government with reference to the 3rd clause was that they were acting oppressively last night. The right hon. Baronet in charge of the Bill said the Amendment of the hon. Member for Haggerston was supported only by a Scotchman, an English lawyer, and a London Radical. Arithmetically speaking, he was correct, because the Government, by a forcible measure, stopped further discussion; tout I am morally convinced that, if they 494 had had an opportunity, 50 Members on this side would have supported the Amendment, and would have made the promoters of the Bill understand how strong was the opposition.
§ *(6.16.) MR. W. H. SMITH
If hon. Members really wish the Debate to be adjourned I will offer no opposition.
§ Debate adjourned till Thursday.