The Chinese question: Speech by Mr. Kenneth Mackay, M.L.A. [10 September 1896]

[Editor: An article reporting on a speech by Kenneth Mackay. Published in The Australian Star, 10 September 1896.]

The Chinese question.

Speech by Mr. Kenneth Mackay, M.L.A.

The Joss of cheapness.

Chinese in the grocery business — The gospel of our government.

At the meeting held at the Royal Hotel, Darlington, on Monday evening, to protest against the inroad of Chinese in that electorate Mr. Kenneth Mackay, M.L.A. (Booroowa), and author of “The Yellow Wave,” a work dealing with the Chinese question, said while holding with “Australia for the Australians,” he did not object to members of the white races settling amongst us, because sooner or later they adopted our conditions of life. It is from the East that we have most to fear. Europeans may swamp our local industries. The East must inevitably swamp, not only our trade, but also our manhood.

He said: Anxious for the future of our race, I hold a brief for them here to-night. The Premier, thanks to Mr. Crick, had put an anti-alien bill on the business paper of the House. Forced by Mr. Schey (another protectionist) he has even promised to wait no longer, but to introduce it this session. Personally, I do not believe he will do anything so opposed to his fiscal faith. But if he does, unless it insists on the absolute exclusion of alien and inferior people, it is not worth the paper it is written on.

We want a white Australia and should be satisfied with no bill which does not say once and for all — no Chinamen, Japanese or Asiatics need apply.

I know the constitutional difficulty which will be argued against this step. But are we to be bound by treaties in which we have no part? Are we to be asked to submit to an invasion of inferior peoples because it suits England to trade with nations who never send one of their sons to personally compete with her workers or contaminate the blood of her people? I have too deep a respect for British fairness to think England would take so monstrous a view of the situation. But if she did then I say our duty is plain. For our own, for our children’s sakes the blood of our race must be kept pure, let the cost be what it may.

America has said with no uncertain sound the Chinaman must go, and Li Hung Chang has objected. He will probably do the same thing here. But the Chinaman must go all the same, and the sooner the better for all concerned. The fewer vested rights he obtains the less injustice he will suffer. America to-day pays the penalty for the introduction of the negro.

Queensland will yet have to face the problem of an inferior race within her borders. A buffer of coolies and kanakas is a poor one to stem the tide of a barbaric invasion, as Northern Australia may yet discover.

For years our Chinese quarter has been a vile trap for our miserable gamblers and poor, vain or innocent, but ignorant girls. For the white man who goes there I have nothing to say. But let us realise what it means for a woman. Heaven knows, there are vile enough dens of our own where women sin and suffer. But for them there may be hope. In the precincts of Lower George-street there is none. Once there opium completes what lust began, and the white woman who enters a Chinese den is for ever damned mentally, morally and physically. But bad as the old Chinese quarter is, we have now to face something more.

Reid’s joss is the one the Chinese also worship, and so at the call of the god of cheapness they have come forth from their dens, and are spreading themselves all through our city. The shopkeepers who voted to tear down the barriers which protection had reared against the cheap products of the alien forgot that of all men the alien was the one most likely to come and personally undersell them. They failed to follow free-trade to its logical conclusion — the Mongolian is doing so, and soon in Sydney Ah Bung and his compatriots will increase and multiply until the legend Gone Bung may be written over the doors of the small retail traders of our own nation.

No patriotic Australian desires to see within our borders distinct communities of any particular nation, and so I deprecate the fact that the Greek has monopolised our fish trade and the Italian our fruit trade. But when we find the Mongolian gradually absorbing our retail groceries and the Hindoo driving our street sellers and country hawkers out of the field I hold the time has come to ask, is the Caucasian played out?

What do these aliens bring that we should desire their presence? Physically they bring frames rotten with a thousand vile diseases, intensified by centuries of neglect and ignorance. Mentally they can only offer us duplicity, cunning and a moral standard so low that with them to be a champion liar is regarded as a crowning virtue. What do they leave us when they, by debasing our rate of wages, have made enough to retire to China? A number of women ruined beyond recall, a certain proportion of men rendered lower than the brutes through the opium habit, a legacy of disease that must help to sap the future of our race. That is all. Every penny of the gold they win goes out of this country. They even refuse to leave us the bones of their dead to fertilise our soil.

The Hindoo must also go. Already no woman is safe from these wretched pedlars who are swarming over our inland districts. Daily selectors’ wives and daughters are being tempted and insulted by these insolent nomads. They are British subjects I know — but, again I say, that fact must not deter us from doing our duty. England may have to ask a Hindoo to save her cricket prestige; thank goodness we have not had to ask a Chinaman to help us to win a test match yet.

Right here let me say, in justice to one man, I allude to Quong Tart, that he personally is a citizen any nation might be proud of, but one swallow does not make a summer, nor can one man go bail for a people such as the Chinese are.

Fellow Australians, the alien must go, but remember this, he must not be ill-used. The law which gives him the right to come must also protect him while he is here. To maltreat him is to sink beneath his own level. If he still remains do not wreak your vengeance on him, but on your legislators. Demand at their hands, in justice to your country’s future, that Australia must be a white, not a piebald nation. From the free-trade Premier, if he be true to the teaching of his faith, you can logically expect nothing. From the so-called labour party, who spend all their time outside and inside the House pouring fulsome flattery on the Government and abuse and misrepresentation on the Opposition, you can expect little more. They have done their best to sink the national policy a hundred fathoms deep.

Some of you may have seen a huge picture on the hoardings of this city. On the box seat of a car, loaded with imported boots and drawn by six asses, sits the Premier; in the dicky behind, wearing a complacent smile, lolls the leader of the labour party. It is the free-trade coach of State, bearing the two free-trade leaders over the ruined industries of this colony.

Remember this picture, working men of New South Wales, and when the time comes also remember that labour and protection are so bound up in each other that they must stand or fall together, and that if you want a policy which will not only give you a white Australia, but also work for white Australians to do, you must sweep aside for ever this labour-free-trade combination which has fooled and robbed you too long, and rear in its place a national policy built on the only safe and sure foundation — labour and protection.

The Australian Star (Sydney, NSW), 10 September 1896, p. 3

[Editor: Changed “her people.” to “her people?” (added question mark).]

[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]

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