John C Watson’s review of Australia’s racial struggle

[ Transcribed 1901 ]

We know that a few years ago business men – 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 that 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 business men, so far as the competition of the “heathen Chinese” 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 to-day 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 storekeepers apparently doing a thriving business.

In each and every avenue of life we find the competition of the coloured races 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 settlements on the coast from which they work the fisheries.

Then, on the Queensland coast, we find that Thursday Island is to-day a coloured settlement containing the most heterogeneous mixture of races it is 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 3,000. These figures represent the immigration from one nation only, and do not include the Javanese, Malays, Manillamen, 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 that there is one man who has not read of or experienced the trouble that these coloured hawkers give, especially where women and children are left – and necessarily left – unprotected, in the sparsely settled districts, lt 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 out Chinamen, Japanese, Manillamen, Malays, or Assyrians, we have no justification for attempting to keep out of Australia the coloured British subjects of His Majesty the King

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