[Title page of the Act, bound with blue ribbon, on which there is a red wax seal.]
[Page header:] 1901.] 1 EDWARDI [sic] VII. [No.
[Handwritten title:] No 16 of 1901
[Heading:] AN ACT
To provide for the Regulation, Restriction, and Prohibition of the Introduction of Labourers from the Pacific Islands and for other purposes.
[Handwritten annotation:] (Assented to 17th December, 1901.)
BE it enacted by the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, the Senate, and the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, as follows:—
1. [Marginal note: ‘Short title.’] This Act may be cited as the Pacific Island Labourers Act 1901.
2. [Marginal note: ‘Definitions’.] In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears—
"Agreement" means any agreement for service made with a Pacific Island Labourer within or under the Pacific Island Labourers Acts 1880-1892 of the State of Queensland.
"Licence" means a licence under those Acts to introduce labourers from the Pacific Islands.
“Minister” means the Minister for External Affairs.
[Page 2 of excerpt, page 3 of the Act. Beginning at section 8, part 2.]
[Header:] 1 EDW. VII.] Pacific Island Labourers. [No. 3
(2.) The Minister may order a Pacific Island labourer found in Australia after the thirty-first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and six, to be deported from Australia, and thereupon he shall be deported accordingly.
9. [Marginal note: 'Penalty'.] Any person who—
(a) contrary to this Act introduces a Pacific Island labourer or allows a Pacific Island labourer to enter Australia; or
(b) employs a Pacific Island labourer except under an agreement
shall be liable on summary conviction before a police stipendiary or special magistrate sitting as a court of summary jurisdiction to a penalty not exceeding One hundred pounds.
10. [Marginal note: 'Onus of proof that person is not Pacific Island labourer.] In any proceeding under this Act, a person alleged to be a Pacific Island labourer shall be deemed to be a Pacific Island labourer until the contrary is shown.
11. [Marginal note: ‘Regulations’.] (1.) The Governor-General may make regulations for carrying out this Act.
(2.) All such regulations shall be notified in the Gazette and shall thereupon have the force of law.
(3.) All such regulations shall be laid before both Houses of the Parliament within thirty days after the making thereof if the Parliament be then sitting, and if not then within thirty days after the next meeting of the Parliament.
I HEREBY CERTIFY that the above is a fair print of the Bill intituled "An Act to provide for the Regulation, Restriction, and Prohibition of the Introduction of Labourers from the Pacific Islands and for other purposes,' which has been passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives, and that the said Bill originated in the House of Representatives.
[Handwritten signature:] C. Gavan Duffy
Clerk of the House of Representatives.
In the name and on behalf of His Majesty, I assent to this Act.
[Handwritten signature:] J Hopetoun
[Handwritten:] Government House
17th December 1901.
[Small text:] Printed and Published for the GOVERNMENT of the COMMONWEALTH of AUSTRALIA, by ROBT. S. BRAIN, Government Printer for the State of Victoria.
About this record
This is an Act passed by the Australian federal parliament in 1901. It is headed: ‘An Act to provide for the Regulation, Restriction, and Prohibition of the Introduction of Labourers from the Pacific Islands and for other purposes’, known as the Pacific Island Labourers Act 1901.
The Act is printed on parchment, bound by blue ribbon and on the left side it has the red wax seal of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. Handwritten on the first page are the words ‘No. 16 of 1901’ and ‘(Assented to 17th December, 1901)’.
- This document enacted a law to deport the vast majority of the Pacific Islanders living in Australia. This Act was part of a package of legislation introduced in the first year of Australia’s new federal parliament. The identification of the Act as ‘No. 16 of 1901’ means that this was the sixteenth piece of legislation passed by the federal parliament in 1901.
- In 1901, around 10,000 Pacific Islanders were living and working in Queensland and northern New South Wales. Most were employed under indentured labour agreements. The Act was intended as an instrument of mass deportation. It enabled deportation of most of the Pacific Islander workers as soon as possible after the end of 1906, but it encouraged them to emigrate before then.
- Only 700 were exempt from deportation under the Act: the only Pacific Islanders allowed to stay in Australia were those brought to Queensland before 1 September 1879; those under licence as indentured servants (people who worked under forced labour contracts); those working in ships’ crews; and those granted exemption certificates under the Immigration Restriction Act 1901.
- The Act also imposed progressive limits on Pacific Islander immigration. In 1902, immigration was limited to three-quarters of the number who had departed Australia in 1901. In 1903, the number admitted dropped to half the number of 1902 departures. No labour agreements were valid after the end of 1906 and, from that date, any Pacific Islander found in Australia was to be deported immediately—unless they had been under a labour agreement within the previous month. Moreover, if a person was suspected of being a Pacific Islander, it was up to them to prove that they were not.
- Pacific Islanders mounted a political campaign to oppose the Act. They sent petitions to the King, to the Governor of Queensland, to the Governor-General and to the Prime Minister. The only relief achieved was an amendment to the Act in late 1906, which liberalised the exemption categories.
- The final deportation of Pacific Islanders began in late 1906 and continued until mid-1908, taking longer than the Australian Government had planned. The official number of Pacific Islanders allowed to remain was 1654, but research indicates that the actual number was much higher, with around 2500 remaining in Australia. This means mass deportation under this Act had forced around 7500 people to leave Australia.